SAN DIEGO (CN) – California’s incoming governor Gavin Newsom toured the Otay Mesa Detention Center outside San Diego Thursday and said more local, state and federal dollars are needed so asylum-seeking migrants don’t “end up on the streets and sidewalks.”
“We can’t do everything ourselves but I know we’re capable of doing more,” Newsom told reporters at a press conference following his morning tour of the immigration detention facility. Otay Mesa sits just miles from the San Ysidro Port of Entry, where thousands of Central American men, women and children wait on the Mexico side of the border hoping to get asylum in the U.S.
“We need to be prepared for what’s going on, because with all due respect, we’re not. We’re responding to this crisis in real time. I’ll tell you this, San Diego and folks in this region: they’re going to end up on the streets and sidewalks. They’re going to be in emergency rooms. So we have to address this issue and do it thoughtfully and compassionately,” Newsom added.
Newsom pointed out the state has allocated a $500,000 grant to cover case management services by case workers to work with immigrants on top of millions he said was previously spent by the state “more broadly” for things such as legal services, prior to the current caravan’s arrival in Tijuana, Mexico.
But the new pot of money, Newsom said, is “insufficient” and has “informed my sense of urgency to increase the investment” as he works to put together next fiscal year’s budget which will be submitted informally to staff members Dec. 15.
Since the state budget appropriation cycle takes six months, Newsom said he plans to find additional funding sources in the interim, and “make sure strings attached to those dollars are loosened.”
“I feel strongly if the state is going to do more, local government is going to have to do more,” Newsom said.
But San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors opted not to include an Office of Immigrant and Refugee Services in its approved budget this year despite outcry from immigration advocates, claiming those services were already covered through Health and Human Services.
Newsom visited San Diego Thursday during the season’s first rainstorm which washed out many of the migrants camped out in Tijuana and prompted city officials to seek approval from Mexico’s federal government to open a second temporary shelter in a vacant event space which has a roof and can better shelter migrants from rain.
At his tour of the detention facility Thursday morning, Newsom said he saw a three-year-old girl he called a “victim of circumstance” and said should be who politicians keep in mind when working to solve what Newsom called a “humanitarian crisis.”
Challenging comments by President Donald Trump earlier this week to permanently shut down the border, Newsom said the national conversation about the U.S.-Mexico border “is not including the reality you experience every single day.”
“Every time there is a flippant comment about shutting down the border it impacts the economy and the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people that are reliant on that trade and commerce on a daily basis,” Newsom said, acknowledging the estimated $5.3 million loss San Ysidro businesses suffered due to Sunday’s border closure.
“You’re talking about millions and millions of dollars, billions of dollars of economic consequence if we continue with this rhetoric around shutting down the border without considering what that means,” Newsom added.
Newsom will be in Mexico City over the weekend with a delegation of California leaders to attend the inauguration of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.