San Diego to Sue Feds Over Release of Asylum-Seekers

SAN DIEGO (CN) – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to sue the federal government for releasing asylum-seeking families in the U.S. without temporary shelter or travel plans for reaching family members and sponsors across the country.

In a closed session, the board voted 4-1 to become the first municipality to sue the Trump administration over its release of asylum-seeking families at bus stations and fast food restaurants near the U.S.-Mexico border and in downtown San Diego after clearing the families to pursue their asylum claims.

In a statement following the vote Tuesday, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said, “the Trump administration created this crisis by releasing asylum-seeking families into our community without providing critical resources or even places to shelter.”

“The federal government has failed to consider the impact of its own actions on public health and safety, and the lawsuit is an effort to hold the feds accountable,” Jacob added.

The vote comes after the board last month approved leasing an old family courthouse downtown for $1 to the San Diego Rapid Response Network, a coalition of nonprofit agencies in San Diego led by Jewish Family Service of San Diego, which has been providing emergency shelter and arranging travel plans for asylum-seeking families.

The SDRRN mobilized to assist families last fall after Immigration and Customs Enforcement ended its “Safe Release” program to help arrange travel plans for families to stay with their sponsors throughout the U.S. while awaiting their asylum hearings in immigration court.

The SDRRN has provided shelter and transportation to 5,900 migrants typically in San Diego for 24 to 48 hours, according to a statement released by the organization Tuesday. 

Jacob, a Republican, said last month she had consulted with county counsel about filing a lawsuit against the federal government to seek reimbursement for costs the county has racked up related to health screenings and immunizations provided to asylum-seekers.

The cost of providing medical services to migrant families is expected to balloon to $4 million for 2019, according to Supervisor Jim Desmond.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who along with Supervisor Greg Cox pushed for the county to lease the empty courthouse to shelter asylum-seeking families, said in a statement he fully supported taking legal action.            

“While we wait for the courts to weigh in, San Diego County will not abandon asylum seekers. We are committed to continuing our work with the San Diego Rapid Response Network and the state of California to ensure humane and compassionate treatment for all,” Fletcher said.

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar cast the dissenting vote, according to a county official.

On Monday, the California Senate approved $5 million to support the SDRRN and other nonprofits providing services to asylum-seekers. The funding was part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s first budget, which includes the $5 million plus an additional $20 million over the next three years for immigration emergency situations for which federal funding is not available.

The funding will go to Newsom’s desk for final approval.

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