As plans are being finalized for hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children to move into the San Diego Convention Center, NBC 7 got an inside look at the group’s current living conditions just south of the border.
Video shot by a freelance photographer hired by Telemundo 20 shows hundreds of people living in pop-up tents and underneath tarps. Most of the people appear to be teenagers, though the video does show children who appear to be under the age of 5 and also at least one infant.
Volunteers could be seen helping provide entertainment and educational services. At one point, children are seen dancing in a large circle as music plays. Others are drawing pictures with crayons, and pages of finger paintings hang from a tent.
But there also sobering scenes.
In another video clip, a group of three apparent teens hold a cardboard sign with a message written in Spanish. Translated, the message says, “President Joe Biden, my parents and I are in danger in our home country. We ask for your help, please.”
During President Biden’s first news conference on Thursday, he addressed the influx of migrants at the border.
“It happens every single solitary year,” Biden said.
Biden said there has been a 28% increase in migrants during his administration. That number, he said, was at 31% in 2019 under the Trump administration. He criticized the former president for dismantling and eliminating funding to deal with the problem.
“There’s two ways to significantly reduce child populations and circumstances that are not acceptable, like being held at a Border Patrol station," Biden said. "One is to get them to a place where they have a relative and set a date when a hearing can be held."
One of those places the president referenced will soon be set up at the San Diego Convention Center.
Right now, representatives with the convention center, and the city and county of San Diego, are coordinating efforts with FEMA and federal Health and Human Services officials to contract vendors and determine the services that will be provided to the migrant children.
Though no definitive date has been set for their arrival, it’s possible 1,400 unaccompanied minors could arrive by this weekend. They could be there for several months.
Meanwhile, a convention center representative said that events have been canceled through July but that major events are still on the books for August while the center is waiting for reopening guidance from the state. Events are being booked for the second half of 2021 and beyond.