Service organizations helping asylum-seeking migrants in San Diego despite thin resources

For the past week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been releasing hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants into the streets of San Diego.

That number surpassed 3,000 on Tuesday, according to County Supervisor Jim Desmond said, and hundreds more are expected to be released in the coming days.

Many have been dropped off at the Iris Avenue Transit Center - It's part of CBP procedure that makes it easier for migrants to connect with family in other cities. But with resource centers maxed out, many asylum-seeking migrants don’t know where to go. Others are trying to figure out how to get to their destination.

“There’s a lot of people who are separated from their families who have been separated for days and they don’t know where their family members are,” Roc who was volunteering said.

Such is the case for Doris Castillo Camaron, who was dropped off Tuesday morning. She’s waiting to reunite with her husband and son who are still at the processing center.

“I’m waiting to see if they get dropped off here later,” Camaron said.

She’s not alone. Hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants like her have been dropped off at the transit center in the last week, many with destinations that require catching a flight.

“We’re trying to reunite families and get people to the airport,” Roc said.

For those who are not flying out of state, they need a temporary place to stay, but the centers offering temporary shelter say they are strained on resources.

“Currently, our shelter is at full capacity, we have stretched resources to help hundreds of new asylum seekers today released by the Department of Homeland Security. We are only able to assist asylum seekers directly released from DHS and cannot help additional asylum seekers,”the San Diego Rapid Response Network said.

NBC 7's Omari Fleming spoke to Supervisor Jim Desmond about the issues the county is facing.

Pastor Jackie Wilson with Iglesia Cristiana Getstamani opened the doors of their church to offer temporary shelter.

“For the last three days, 120, we have helped 120 people,” Wilson said.

“We do need help, we need other people to take conscious of the crisis that we are facing right now in our borders and take action,” Wilson said.

Supervisor Desmond said the county does not have the personnel or funding to provide resources. He said the board chair wrote a letter to the governor and president asking for resources.

The wave of migrants was foreshadowed in a Sep. 11 letter to Governor Gavin Newsom from Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas.

In it, Vargas voices quote, “concerns with the state's decision to cease shelter operations assisting migrants at the border" on Sep. 13.

In bold letters, she wrote: "We are concerned that without the state's ongoing coordination and operations, we will reach maximum shelter capacity and that would result in street releases in San Diego."

Compounding the issue, according to the letter, congress hasn't indicated whether they'll allocate any more money to fund humanitarian operations at the border.

A move that will strain the county's non-profit partners that are already

Experiencing shortages. 

“We’re not an immigration department. We don't have these types of resources available," Supervisor Desmond said.

The county is strained, too, according to Desmond, and doesn't have the personnel or funding to meet the needs of migrants being dropped across the county by CBP - a move that's part of the agency's procedure when their processing centers are overwhelmed.

“The best cure would be when we're at capacity, stop bringing and letting people in for a while. We need a better system. Our immigration system has failed. It is broken. This is not the way to run an immigration system," he said.

While the fix will have to come from a federal level, San Diego County, along with nonprofits, will be forced to help hundreds more asylum seekers expected to be released in the coming days.

NBC 7 reached out to Newsom’s office late Tuesday to find out why they’re no longer providing humanitarian support. We’re still waiting for a statement.

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