San Diego

‘Breaks My Heart': Normal Heights Pastor Takes Actions Against Overcrowded Migrant Shelters

A Normal Heights pastor is taking action to find migrants humane living conditions in San Diego.

Pastor Bill Jenkins urged the community to act after photos revealed graphic conditions inside Texas Border Patrol stations.

“There’s an urgency, not only an urgency for the people who are suffering in these tight quarters and inhumane conditions, but there’s an urgency for us to try and get this place opened up as soon as we possibly can,” said Jenkins.

The Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General Office shared their concerns of overcrowding and health risks inside several Rio Grande Valley border patrol facilities, calling them a "ticking time bomb."

In one photo, inspectors reported more than eighty men were crammed into a room with a capacity of half that.

“The way in which they’re being treated inhumanely, it not only absolutely breaks my heart,” Jenkins said. “It angers me that we as a nation have gotten to the point where we would treat people like this.”

For the last two months, the Brown Field Border Patrol station in Otay Mesa has accepted migrants flown in from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

On Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection told NBC 7 they do not have plans to stop these flights. A CBP spokesperson said two flights each week will continue to arrive to San Diego in order to help alleviate the overcrowded situation in Texas.

When this was initially announced in May, San Diego Interim Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison said the facilities were not built with beds, but rather migrants slept on mats. However, Harrison said the goal is to process migrants under 72 hours and then transfer them to long-term shelters.

“The reason we feel this urgency is because every hour that we wait, there are people who are suffering, and we want to do what we can to get them out of those places and into a safer place,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins is the founder of the Safe Harbors Network and Christ Ministry Center which houses migrants across San Diego.

His group is working to transform a four-bedroom home and a basketball gym with beds for more than 50 migrants.

“We handle the ones that are three days, three weeks, three months or perhaps even longer,” he said. “Our goal is to have 150 beds available at all times, and this is for longer term asylum seekers.”

They aim to open the two new shelters by the beginning of August.

“There are over a quarter million houses of worship in the U.S., if every one of those houses of worship would take one person or family, you would not see these horrible pictures that you’re seeing coming out of Texas,” he said.

The large number of migrants arriving is impacting the facilities’ ability to respond, CBP said in a statement to NBC 7.

“As sad as I am to see what’s happening, I am greatly optimistic about the fact that we can do something right here in San Diego to alleviate some of the suffering,” Jenkins said.

The groups are collecting donations for the shelters they want to call “Welcome Home.” For more information, visit Safe Harbors Network’s website or Colesville United Methodist Church’s website.

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