Escondido Denies Immigrant Children Housing Permit

The planning commission for the city of Escondido has denied a permit for a temporary shelter for undocumented immigrant children.

Impassioned pleas from Escondido residents filled City Hall late Tuesday as the city’s planning commission considered whether to reverse a recent vote denying a permit to the non-profit organization Southwest Key.

The proposed facility would offer housing for an influx of unaccompanied minors who have entered the U.S. from Central America. San Diego County has limited beds for immigrant children as they await legal proceedings to determine if they can seek asylum from the violence and poverty in their home countries.

Supporters of the shelter took to the podium to urge commissioners to allow it to go forward.

“This is a human issue,” said Effie Collins, who’s changed her own mind on immigration. “Not an issue between haves and have nots.”

"What’s happening to these kids has personal meaning for me,” said another woman. “Just before World War I, my Dutch grandmother was determined to get out of Europe with her son: my father."

One by one, people tried to persuade commissioners to allow the now-shuttered Palomar Continuing Care Center to be turned into a 96-bed shelter for undocumented immigrant children.

Despite a pre-meeting, pro-shelter march to City Hall, with protestors chanting at times "We're a community without borders," the planning commission voted not to allow the children's facility in Escondido.

Resident Jack Bennett was happy.

“They need to be with their parents,“ he said about the children the facility would house. “They need to be in their home country with their parents. That’s not being racist. “

Commissioners said they were denying the permit based on inappropriate and too intensive of land use, traffic, noise and safety.

The vote not to convert the facility doesn't just mean the immigrant minors won't be housed in Escondido. It also means the estimated $8.5 million and about 100 jobs the shelter was projected to bring into North County will not be coming.

The decision can be appealed within the next ten days. If it is, the city council will make the deciding vote.

Southwest Key already operates two other shelters in San Diego County.

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