From SDRRN Steering Committee: Kate Clark, Senior Director of Immigration Services, Jewish Family Service of San Diego; Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director, ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties; David Garcias, former president, Local 221 SEIU; and Alejandra Garcias, Dreamer Center project specialist, Southwestern College.

San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) has been a primary humanitarian service provider in the region since October 2018, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began releasing hundreds of migrant families onto San Diego’s streets without warning and without following travel process protocols. To date, the SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services has welcomed more than 176,000 people seeking asylum with respite shelter, food, case management, medical and legal support, and travel coordination to be reunited with their loved ones across the U.S. – all while prioritizing public health. These families and most vulnerable migrants are now directly released to our care from DHS. The shelter has been held up as a national model and successful public-private partnership.

Together, we have created critical infrastructure that centers humanity and has kept migrant families and our community and staff safe while meeting extraordinary needs under historic circumstances.

Starting in mid-September 2023 and continuing to this day, more than 20,000 people seeking asylum have been left at transit centers and other locations throughout the San Diego region without any resources. All asylum seekers should be welcomed compassionately with dignity and respect.

We applaud the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors for allocating $3 million to assist people seeking asylum who have been “street released” in San Diego County and its consideration of releasing an additional $3 million, and urge the following recommendations:

  1. County contracts for humanitarian aid for people seeking asylum should go through an open Request for Proposal (RFP) process.
  2. The County contract should strongly encourage subcontracting from experienced and proven humanitarian aid providers that have been on the ground for years, of which there are many in our region.
  3. The budget should be prioritized for line items that do not already have appropriated funds. These costs should not include ongoing expenses already funded and required by the federal government, including the transportation of people seeking asylum from U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities.
  4. Contract terms should include transparency of use of funds and appropriate reporting requirements.
  5. The County should convene and lead an intergovernmental and non-governmental organization response to ensure that these funds support a sustainable infrastructure. To maximize efficiency, County contractor(s)’ efforts should be integrated into the existing shelter and humanitarian aid infrastructure for people seeking asylum in the region.
  6. Funding should also be prioritized to support the ongoing humanitarian aid efforts at the U.S. Custom and Border Protection’s “open-air detention sites,” where people seeking asylum continue to be kept in between border fences without any shelter, food, water, or medical care, and local organizations are assisting without any government support. A new Women’s Refugee Commission report supports this recommendation.

These efforts to expand a sustainable infrastructure to welcome people seeking asylum with dignity are most successful when they are based on public-private partnerships, with all levels of government.

San Diego is and always will be a binational region. This is our responsibility and privilege.