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SDRRN In The News

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SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services Capacity and Needs Update February 2024

February 23, 2024

SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services’ resources and infrastructure are currently stretched to capacity. We cannot provide respite shelter and services to all the people seeking asylum that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is releasing. The shelter will continue receiving up to 300 of the most vulnerable asylum seekers released by DHS daily, including people with medical conditions, families, pregnant people, LGBTQI people, older adults, etc., as space allows.

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A New Immigration Policy That Avoids a Dangerous Journey Is Working. But Border Crossings Continue.

Associated Press

January 5, 2024

Migrants are arriving in the U.S. under the Biden administration’s new “safe mobility offices.” The idea is to streamline the U.S. refugee process so migrants don’t give up and pay smugglers to make the journey north, further straining the U.S.-Mexico border, which has seen record-high numbers of crossings.

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Over 1,000 Migrant Families Separated at Border Near San Diego Since September, Advocates Say

Los Angeles Times

December 15, 2023

Nearly 1,100 migrant families have been separated while being processed at the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego since September, immigrant advocacy groups, including Jewish Family Service of San Diego, said in a letter sent Thursday to the Department of Homeland Security that seeks an investigation into the matter (Read Letter). The separations stem from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s ongoing practice of releasing high volumes of migrants to street locations around San Diego County without coordinated reception plans. “The trauma families experience during the periods of separation is compounded by CBP’s lack of communication and the near-total opacity of their practices,” states the letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s office of civil rights and civil liberties, which was also signed by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, and Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

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Immigrant Rights Groups Sound Alarm on Increase in Family Separations

December 14, 2023

Al Otro Lado, ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy Lodge Complaint to U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Al Otro Lado logo
JFS-logo-w-tag

SAN DIEGO (Dec. 14, 2023) – In the midst of significant increases of family separations at the San Diego border region, Al Otro Lado, ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC), Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law, and Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFSSD) filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) today with grave concerns about the number of families separated during and after asylum processing at the southern border.

ACLUF-SDIC, CILP and JFS have filed complaints with DHS about similar concerns in the past. Today’s CRCL complaint focuses on family separations stemming from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s ongoing practice of releasing high volumes of recently processed migrants to transit centers and makeshift nonprofit organization installations throughout San Diego County since mid-September 2023 – without providing basic necessities, including food, water, and shelter, medical screening or stabilization, or onward travel coordination. Al Otro Lado has documented 1,081 unique instances of separations among adult family members since mid-September 2023.

  • In 19 confirmed cases, families continue to be separated after CBP transferred family members to long-term ICE custody, where they remain as of the date of this complaint.
  • For some families, including in two confirmed cases, the separations will potentially be permanent because of the deportation of a family member.
  • Fortunately, some families, including in 279 confirmed cases, have been reunified since the separation. However, the subsequent reunification does not undo the harm of the separation, particularly in instances when it was prolonged. Of the reunified families, some were separated for as long as 48 days before reunifying.

The complaint notes that the recent settlement agreement in Ms. L v. ICE that concerns parents and guardians forcibly separated from minor children during the Trump Administration, does not remedy nor address ongoing separations among adult spouses and partners, parents and their adult children, adult siblings and other separations among family groups, such as those documented in today’s complaint.

According to Erika Pinheiro, executive director of Al Otro Lado: “Through November, CBP has street released more than 42,000 vulnerable people, subjecting them to unnecessary risk of serious harm in numerous ways, including through family separation. We have documented over 1,000 unique instances in which families were subjected to traumatic separation of various lengths and times – none of which are necessary or acceptable.”

The four leading organizations are calling for an immediate investigation by CRCL into the systemic problems leading to the family separations and urge CBP to adopt recommendations to prevent the ongoing separations and the irreparable harms they cause.

 

Recommendations

While CBP has reportedly issued updated guidance meant to preserve family unity during border processing, the groups noted that CBP has yet to release that guidance publicly, preventing meaningful accountability and monitoring. The groups further note that recent reports, including those documented in today’s complaint, indicate the agency continues to depart from its own guidance.

The groups provided seven straight-forward, yet critical recommendations to remedy the harms caused by ongoing family separations and to prevent them from occurring in the future, including recommendations that CBP:

  1. Preserve family unity by adopting a more inclusive definition of what constitutes a family group;
  2. Document and link all relationships among family groups;
  3. Streamline processing pathways among all members of a family group to ensure families are released together to their networks of care in the U.S.;
  4. Communicate to all adult members of the family group the whereabouts of any missing family member(s) and facilitate communication with any family group member(s) who remain in DHS custody;
  5. Expand the priorities of the Biden Administration’s Family Reunification Task Force to include the investigation and prevention of ongoing incidents of family separation;
  6. Permanently fund infrastructure that facilitates the safe and humane reception of people seeking asylum along the southern border to reduce the potential occurrence of family separation; and,
  7. Ensure consistent on-the-ground coordination with respite service providers to ensure the swift, safe release and transportation of people seeking asylum from DHS custody to the care of shelters and respite centers.

“We have seen too many cases in which part of a family will be in our care at the San Diego Rapid Response Migrant Shelter Services with no knowledge of where their other family members are. At best, they are somewhere else in the county. There are some instances where people have been detained in other states. The most devastating instances are when a family member has been deported with little hope for reunification,” said Kate Clark, Esq., senior director of immigration services at JFSSD. “Our respite sheltering system is based on dignified, person-centered care – this means keeping families together. Too often we find ourselves making every effort to reunite families who are suffering from inhumane and cruel separations.”

“Border processing that disregards the sanctity of family unity compounds trauma and jeopardizes due process. We have repeatedly documented harrowing accounts of ongoing family separation and its destructive consequences, but CBP has continued to allow them to occur. How many horror stories will be enough for the agency to finally take meaningful action?” said CILP Senior Staff Attorney Monika Langarica. “We look forward to CRCL’s prompt investigation into this matter and urge CBP to adopt the necessary recommendations to ensure that families do not continue to suffer at the hands of these harmful practices.”

“The federal government’s reckless practice of uncoordinated mass releases of asylum-seeking migrants into San Diego County has significantly increased the number of family separations occurring in our region. In the absence of meaningful government support for these individuals – who have a legal right to be here – local NGOs groups are providing critical humanitarian assistance, including documenting separations and assisting with family reunifications,” said ACLUF-SDIC Immigrants’ Rights Senior Policy Advocate Felicia Gomez. “The ACLU fights to ensure that keeping families together is a priority consideration in U.S. immigration policy and practice. This cruel disregard for preserving family units is antithetical to our shared values as a nation. We the People believe that families, in all their forms, belong together.”

A copy of the complaint, including examples of impacted families, can be viewed at bit.ly/CRCLComplaint, and this press release can be viewed here.

For more information about Al Otro Lado, visit www.alotrolado.org. For more information about the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, visit www.aclu-sdic.org. For more information about Jewish Family Service of San Diego, visit www.jfssd.org. For more information about UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy, visit law.ucla.edu/academics/centers/center-immigration-law-and-policy.

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Editor’s Note: This is the third time in as many years that immigration rights organizations have raised major concerns about family separations to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Previous actions:

We thank you in advance for bringing awareness to the fact that family separations continue, despite these efforts and related court rulings and guidance.

Interviews with legal, shelter, and data experts, in English and Spanish, are available. Interviews with impacted families/individuals are currently not available, but please contact us if you’d like to be added to the list if interviews are possible in the future.

Photos of Al Otro Lado’s family reunification stations are available here and an ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties video that talks about street releases is available here.

Media Contacts:

Jewish Family Service of San Diego
Sandy Young, [email protected] / (858) 699-6521

ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties
[email protected] / (619) 501-3540

Al Otro Lado
[email protected] / (213) 444-6081

UCLA CILP
Hayley Burgess, [email protected] / (626) 497-2341

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Family Separations Stemming from Street Releases at the Southern Border: Complaint to Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection

ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, Al Otro Lado, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy

December 14, 2023

We write with concerns about U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s practices relating to the processing of family groups at the southern border which result in harmful separations.

Read Story

SDRRN Statement Re: County of San Diego Funding to Assist Asylum Seekers

Media Statement

November 30, 2023

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.

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Miles4Migrants, Jewish Family Service, and San Diego Rapid Response Network Join Forces to Aid Migrants at the US-Mexico Border

October 4, 2023

Miles4Migrants, Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFSSD), and San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) have teamed up to provide essential aid to asylum seekers left vulnerable on the streets of San Diego. This collaborative effort aims to facilitate 150 flights per week, offering a lifeline to these individuals and families, reuniting them with their loved ones across the United States.

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Charity Turning Donated Points Into Free Flights for Migrants Leaving San Diego

ABC 10 News

October 3, 2023

A nonprofit called Miles4Migrants is turning donated points into free flights for asylum seekers who’ve arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in south San Diego County. “Our sense is that 98% of individuals actually have a point of contact or loved one outside of San Diego that they’re looking to connect with,” said Kate Clark, Senior Director of Immigration Services at Jewish Family Service of San Diego. Donate miles today by clicking here.

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San Diego Rapid Response Network Statement Re: SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services Capacity and Needs Update

September 29, 2023

We urge all levels of government to continue funding the critical resources needed to sustain operations and to welcome and assist all people seeking asylum arriving in the San Diego border region. And importantly, following the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors’ resolution passed on Sept. 26, we urge the County to take action and use its own funds and seek other funding sources to fulfill this urgent need.

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San Diego County Declares Humanitarian Crisis for Asylum Seekers at Border

asylum, asylum-seekers, migrant, The San Diego Union-Tribune

September 26, 2023

With growing numbers of migrants arriving in San Diego County in recent weeks, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to declare a humanitarian crisis for asylum seekers at the border and request more federal support. More than 8,100 migrants have been dropped off in the region in the last two weeks, according to the county — an influx county officials say shows no sign of slowing. The increase in the number of migrant arrivals in recent weeks is the first significant influx reported since new asylum restrictions were introduced in May when hundreds of migrants waited between the border walls for the end of a pandemic-era immigration policy that blocked asylum seekers and other migrants from entering the U.S. Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services at JFS, spoke to why we were at this moment at this time. View the page in the print edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

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Opinion: The End of Title 42 Should’ve Been a Celebratory Day, but It Was Far From That.

The San Diego Union-Tribune

May 24, 2023

“Our immigration system is broken,” says Kate Clark, JFS’s Senior Director of Immigration Services, as she calls on the public to hold elected officials accountable for rebuilding the immigration system. The Border Patrol recently created a horrific humanitarian situation, detaining hundreds of migrants between the border fences. San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) Migrant Shelter Services, which is operated by JFS, stands ready to continue to help asylum seekers, despite restrictive new border policies imposed by the Biden Administration after Title 42 was lifted on May 11.

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The U.S. Left Them Behind. They Crossed a Jungle to Get Here Anyway.

The New York Times

May 21, 2023

The San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) Migrant Shelter Services, which is operated by JFS, is assisting Afghan refugees who were U.S. allies during the war but were left behind when American troops left Kabul in 2021. Thousands are fleeing the country, fearing retaliation from the Taliban. Many know the Biden Administration is clamping down on immigration but are risking the perilous journey from South America through the Darien Gap, which is being advertised on TikTok, Facebook, and WhatsApp by smugglers claiming it is safe. Once in Border Patrol custody, they are considered “aliens,” subject to deportation. The Afghans qualify for humanitarian parole in the U.S., but few have been approved.

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San Diego Humanitarian Aid Groups Decry Treatment of Migrants by Federal Agencies

KPBS

May 19, 2023

Humanitarian groups, including Immigrants Defenders Law Center and the American Friends Service Committee, are calling attention to what they call human rights violations by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Since the lifting of Title 42 border restrictions, the San Diego Rapid Response Migrant Shelter Service, which is operated by JFS, has seen as many as five times more migrants per day than average, according to JFS’s Kate Clark, Senior Director of Immigration Services. Clark says JFS is coordinating the processing of asylum-seekers with federal partners, including the Department of Homeland Security.

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‘This Is Not the End’: Community Groups Continue to Aid Asylum Seekers at the Border

The San Diego Union-Tribune

May 15, 2023

The response from local community groups aiding migrants since the end of Title 42 is credited with helping the situation from becoming more dire. “We have seen – especially in our community – the ability for us to move forward together as a … community united in our values of welcoming the stranger,” said JFS’s Senior Director of Immigration Services Kate Clark. Customs and Border Protection has now processed the large groups of migrants the Border Patrol was keeping in open-air holding areas near the border walls.

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San Diego Rapid Response Network Statement Re: Current State of Seeking Asylum in the U.S.

May 11, 2023

The San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) condemns the new federal policies that undermine the U.S. asylum system by placing new limitations on a person’s eligibility for asylum. While we have long awaited the end of Title 42 expulsions, people seeking asylum have a legal right to seek protection in the U.S., and any federal policies that prevent this are a violation of that right.

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San Diego Community Converging to Assist Asylum Seekers at San Diego-Tijuana Border

The San Diego Union-Tribune

May 11, 2023

Community groups on both sides of the border — including the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, WorldBeat Cultural Center, Madres y Familias Deportas en Accion, the Black Contractors Association, Interfaith Community Services, and Friends of Friendship Park — have organized a network of resources to help thousands of asylum seekers hoping to apply for protection after the end of the Title 42 border policy. People who want to donate or volunteer are being referred to The San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter (SDRRN), which is operated by JFS.

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San Diego Charities Prepare for Possible Influx of Migrants

CBS 8

May 4, 2023

JFS says there is continuing uncertainty about what will happen when Title 42 expires on May 11, but that it will continue to assist migrants at the same level it has been doing for the past four years. Border towns across the country are bracing for a possible surge. El Paso has already declared a state of emergency. “We will not be able to service the people we may receive without significant federal resources,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

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U.S. Border Policies Have Created a Volatile Logjam in Mexico

The New York Times

March 28, 2023

The Biden administration’s tough new border policies have created a dangerous bottleneck in border towns, with Mexican shelters reporting massive overcrowding and increasingly desperate conditions involving tens of thousands of people. The policies have sharply reduced the number of migrants crossing into the U.S. “The number of people in our care has been halved since the start of the year,” said Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services for Jewish Family Service of San Diego, which operates the SDRRN migrant shelter.

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San Diego Human Rights Coalition Rejects New Biden Rules Biden Rules as ‘Asylum Ban’

Times of San Diego

February 23, 2023

The San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN), a coalition of humanitarian organizations led by Jewish Family Service, is condemning a new Biden Administration proposal that will deport asylum seekers who enter the country illegally, or who did not first seek protection in the countries they passed through. “What the administration has announced today is essentially an asylum ban — a reprehensible step backwards,” the coalition said. “Asylum seekers are not the enemy; our broken immigration system is.”

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San Diego Rapid Response Network Response Network Statement RE: Biden Asylum Restrictions

February 21, 2023

The San Diego Rapid Response Network has proven for the last 4-plus years that welcoming people seeking asylum into our country is possible with humanity and dignity. We condemn the Biden Administration’s proposal today to significantly restrict asylum into the U.S., including requiring migrants to ask for protection in the countries they are traveling through.

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