Supporters of undocumented immigrant mothers and children rallied Wednesday, handing out supplies and teddy bears to the families being released from the federal building in downtown San Diego.
The San Diego nonprofit, Border Angels, gathered outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office with signs in hand, hoping to welcome undocumented families.
Thanks to an influx of donations for the immigrant families, volunteers with the organization brought teddy bears, toys and backpacks to give to them as they were released from the ICE office.
Since July 1, three chartered airplanes carrying undocumented women and children have been flown from Texas to San Diego as part of the federal government’s plan to address the nation’s border crisis.
In exclusive interviews with NBC 7, many of those women have said they left Central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala due to extreme violence and poverty. Many said their best chance of survival was immigrating to the U.S., even if they had to do it illegally.
An estimated 400 undocumented immigrants are currently being processed at facilities in San Diego County. Federal officials have said this process involves the interviewing, photographing and fingerprinting of each immigrant.
Each immigrant also undergoes a background check and medical examination. The immigrant is then transferred into ICE custody and officers with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) decide if the immigrant will be released with a pending date in front of an immigration judge.
According to CBP officials, the undocumented immigrants in San Diego are “instructed to report to an ICE office closest to their final destination within 15 days” of release.
Many of those families have been released in downtown San Diego, which is why supporters chose to meet there for Wednesday’s event.
Volunteers planned to leave stuffed animals outside the federal building all night for the families to see.
They hoped the children would be comforted by the sight of teddy bears.
“So people can know just how there are mean people out there, there are nice people that can get together and can organize and donate their time as well to show support,” said immigrant rights advocate Dulce Aguirre.
Meanwhile, the San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition, a group opposed to the current immigration policies, said it is concerned about how the immigrants’ health issues are being handled.
Coalition leaders said Border Patrol agents told them sick immigrants are being treated and then added back into large groups where they get sick again. The group also claims Border Patrol agents working with the immigrants are not protected from catching the same diseases.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funds to tackle the border crisis. Agents and officials with the strained San Diego sector of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection hope some of those funds will trickle down to them.
According to the Murrieta Police Department, the U.S. Border Patrol said there would be no flight of undocumented immigrants flown into San Diego Thursday, as originally anticipated.