Supporters of a proposed shelter to house undocumented and unaccompanied minors in Escondido are fighting a recent decision by city planners to refuse a permit for the project.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed an appeal on behalf of Southwest Key, hoping the Escondido City Council will reverse the planning commission’s denial.
Two weeks ago they voted to uphold a decision not to allow Southwest Key to turn Palomar Continuing Care Center into a 96-bed facility for undocumented immigrant children.
Too many children, parking and safety were cited as concerns.
"We think the Escondido planning commission got it wrong on every count," explained ACLU’s San Diego Legal Director David Loy.
Loy argued the case for why the now-vacant nursing home should be repurposed into a shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children ages 6 to 17.
The children are screened by Border Patrol and Immigration Customs Enforcement
before being housed in the facility, Loy said.
“In an unlikely event that any of kids or teens present safety or security risk, they are not housed in this kind of facility. They are housed in a more restrictive setting.”
He also noted the company’s record saying that in housing more than 9,000 children less than 40 have walked away.
Iris Siefert is one of the many Escondido residents who oppose the facility that would be located just a block away from where she lives.
She notes that when it comes to granting conditional use permits for facilities like the immigration
Shelter, it's the city's responsibility to ensure the community's safety.
“How can the city ensure in these thousands of children that come through this neighborhood there won't be a couple of bad apples that come through the screening process and misrepresent themselves,” argued Siefert.
The council has 30 days to hear the ACLU’s appeal.
Several Escondido council members are reserving comment until a future hearing.