San Diego Convention Center

Migrant Shelter Nearing Capacity at San Diego Convention Center

The shelter is expected to receive 250 unaccompanied migrant children on Sunday

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What to Know

  • A total of 1,117 unaccompanied minor migrants are at the San Diego Convention Center as of Sunday morning. Two hundred-fifty are expected Sunday afternoon.
  • One hundred thirty-four children have tested positive for COVID-19
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is sheltering the unaccompanied minor migrants until more permanent arrangements can be found during their asylum case proceedings

Another group of unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum in the United States is expected Sunday in San Diego. They will be sheltered temporarily at the San Diego Convention Center before being reunited with family elsewhere in the country or moved into sponsor homes.

The shelter is expected to receive 250 unaccompanied migrant children on Sunday. The children will be between the ages of 5 to 17. The younger children are siblings and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have organized family units at the site, Carol Fiertz with HHS told NBC 7.

On Sunday morning, HHS confirmed the shelter currently has 1,177 unaccompanied migrant children. The shelter's capacity is 1,450, according to HHS spokesperson Bonnie Preston.

The shelter was expected to reach capacity by April 4.

As of Sunday, 134 children have tested positive for COVID-19, HHS told NBC 7.

Bonnie Preston with HHS said those who tested positive, along with anyone they may have been in close contact with, are transported separately and being housed separately from others at the convention center.

Photos: Inside the San Diego Convention Center Being Used to Provide Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Minors

HHS has implemented COVID-19 safety protocols at the convention center to limit the spread of COVID-19. All of the girls in the care of HHS are being tested every three days, Preston said. Migrants are separated into pods of about 50, which won't intermingle.

The first group of migrants, about 476 girls ages 13 to 17, arrived last week from Texas while under the custody of immigration authorities, a spokesperson for the Mexican consulate said.

The majority of the migrants were from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Another group of migrant girls is expected in San Diego Monday evening. NBC 7's Artie Ojeda has the details.

The girls are expected to stay for about 35 days while caseworkers with South Bay Community Services attempt to contact existing family members in the United States or sponsors who will house the minors while they go through court proceedings for their asylum claims.

County leaders got to work on preparing the space, in coordination with FEMA and HHS after receiving a call asking for a temporary shelter location for unaccompanied migrant children. While the county operates the facility, it is managed and paid for by HHS.

The convention center operation will provide food, a place to sleep, educational and recreational activities, and showers. Rady's Children Hospital will lead in providing medical care to the girls at the convention center, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said.

The kids will not be permitted to leave the convention center until reunification happens.

The government said there were nearly 5,000 children in Border Patrol custody as of Tuesday, March 23, and an additional 11,551 at Department of Health and Human Services shelters.

The convention center is currently vacant after a program to house homeless San Diegans came to an end and before summer events resume at the busy site. The convention center will house the minors until mid-July.

In recent weeks, the number of unaccompanied minors has dramatically increased, straining the ability of CBP to hold them in their detention facilities until they can be turned over to HHS. The department houses them until they can be placed with relatives or sponsors while the government decides whether they have a legal claim for residency.

This is the first site in California offering this kind of shelter, officials said. Local leaders have offered up the convention center through July. A spokesperson for the convention center said events have been canceled until then but major events are back on the books for August while the center is awaiting reopening guidance from the state.

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