SAN DIEGO – Somewhere in southern San Diego County is a temporary migrant shelter that is home for thousands of people who have come to the U.S. to ask for asylum.
FOX 5 toured the shelter for the first time Monday. We agreed to keep the location secret for the safety of the families who as staying there.
The sound of children playing and the giggles of babies contrast with the rows of small cots where travel-weary parents are trying to get some rest in the temporary shelter. One man at the shelter traveled from Guatemala with his 4-year-old son. He described the dangers of the journey. “There’s a lot of bad guys. The mafia, they pulled guns on us and they took money from us,” he said.
The shelter is run by the San Diego Rapid Response Network. This is the fifth location they have used since they took over sheltering asylum seekers from the federal government.
Back in October, ICE halted its Safe Release Program, which provided help with travel plans for migrants with asylum claims. Since then, the network, in collaboration with Jewish Family Services, has help around 7,400 people, mostly women and children.
Norma Chavez is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego. She said migrants are given medical checkups, food and assigned a volunteer to help with travel plans. They are also given a cot to sleep on until they have somewhere else to go.
The stories of why these people would risk everything to come to America are grim.
“There a lot of crimes. People kidnap other people, and you a have to pay so they don’t kill you,” one migrant said.
And while the issue has become politically charged, the people who run the shelter hope that when Americans see these vulnerable families, they will empathize with their plight.
“A lot of what you hear is they are all criminals! Well, that is not true,” Chavez said. “If you come here, you will see they are children. How can a child and a mother who is seeking some safety because her husband was murdered, how could that person be criminal?”