ACLU Lawsuit Battles for Escondido Facility for Undocumented Immigrant Children

A legal battle was launched Tuesday reopening the controversial issue of housing for dozens of undocumented immigrant children at a facility in Escondido.

Protests and a city vote ended last year with city leaders rejecting a federal contractor's proposal to turn the old Palomar Continuing Care Center into a 96-bed facility that would house unaccompanied immigrant children while their cases go through court.

In the complaint filed against the City of Escondido, the ACLU says not allowing immigrant children to stay at the facility equates to 21st Century discrimination. The ACLU is looking to get an injunction allowing the immigration facility to operate in a properly zoned area, within Escondido, despite the city's prior vote against it.

The complaint essentially argues the City of Escondido can't discriminate against a federal contractor based on a disagreement with federal policy – that policy being the immigration policy in the United States.

Southwest Key is the federal contractor that was planning on turning the center into a shelter for undocumented immigrant children. During land use meetings on the issue last year residents came out in force to protest the proposed immigration facility.

The city voted down the proposal.

Today, in response to this new lawsuit, Escondido’s City Attorney, Jeffrey Epp, issued this statement:

"It is politically motivated. It's a shame they're wasting time and resources to file it. It was a good decision based on legitimate land use factors and thorough deliberation."

David Loy, of the ACLU, said the proposed facility presents “no threat to the community.”

“There was no crime or disease at issue. The facts show this was a net benefit to the city that would have brought $6 to $7 million in new money to the city – 90-plus new jobs at good salaries for people to spend money and live in Escondido,” said Loy.

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