On Monday, due to the dramatic rise in unaccompanied minor immigrant children at the southern border of the United States, the city of San Diego, California announced that it would use the massive San Diego Convention Center to house many of them.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and San Diego County Board of Supervisors chair Nathan Fletcher acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could use the center as a temporary shelter. They stated:
When HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra requested our help to house some of the unaccompanied minors at the border, we knew it was the right thing to do. Over the weekend, we agreed to open our convention center to the federal government for use as a temporary shelter. The city and county will support this federally funded effort by providing vital services to these vulnerable children who came to our country seeking safety. We are working closely with our federal partners to finalize the details for preparing to receive these young people and provide them with care, compassion and a safe space to transition while they are reunited with families or sponsors. [The children] will be provided with food, medical care, a place to sleep and showers. A safe and secure recreation area will also be created on the exterior of the facility. The children are not permitted to leave the convention center until reunification occurs.
“The center, which has no scheduled events because of the pandemic, will be used to house children up to age 17 for a total of 30 to 35 days until they can be reunified with their families or processed for immigration,” the Times of San Diego noted.
NBC News summarized some of the eye-opening statistics about the “dramatic spike” in migrants at the border since Biden’s inauguration:
Since Pres. Joe Biden’s inauguration, the U.S. has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people encountered by border officials. There were 18,945 family members and 9,297 unaccompanied children encountered in February — an increase of 168% and 63%, respectively, from the month before, according to the Pew Research Center. As of last week, more than 4,200 children are being held in Border Patrol facilities, with 2,943 of those children held over the 72-hour legal limit, according to data obtained by NBC News.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020, the convention center opened the 1,300-bed Operation Shelter to Home on April 1 in order to avert the spread of the virus in the bridge shelters operating in two large tents and Golden Hall, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Earlier this month, the city of San Diego announced that the roughly 700 people at the temporary homeless shelter in the convention center would be moved out. Fletcher said the site could become a vaccination site.
Sandiego.org states that the convention center features:
- 525,701 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space, divisible into seven halls
- 90,000 sq. ft. Sails Pavilion, column-free, glass-enclosed with an industry standard trade show floor
- 72 meeting rooms totaling 204,114 sq. ft., including two 40,000 sq. ft. ballrooms
- 284,494 sq. ft. of pre-function, lobby and registration area
- 184,514 sq. ft. of outdoor terrace space
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