The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to sue the Trump administration for releasing “thousands” of asylum-seekers into the community without making sure they have “food, shelter, or the means to get to their final destinations.”
The administration created the crisis, according to Board Chair Dianne Jacob, by ending ICE’s “Safe Release” program, which ensured that asylum-seekers had the means to travel to get to their sponsors before being released, in October 2018. In ending the program, she said the administration failed to “consider the impact of its own actions on public health and safety,” and should be held accountable.
As we know, in October 2018 a caravan of thousands of asylum seekers were heading toward the US/Mexico border. Those who came to a legal port of entry and requested asylum were processed, given a court date, and released into the community. Facing a shortage of facilities in which to house this influx, DHS decided to release the asylum-seekers more quickly than they had in the past.
Now, charities in San Diego are feeling the strain. In November 2018 the San Diego Rapid Response Network, “a coalition of human rights and service organizations, attorneys, and community leaders dedicated to aiding immigrants and their families in the San Diego border region,” swung into action, and now say they’re overwhelmed.
“SDRRN’s efforts were intended as a stopgap measure, but the growing number of asylum-seeking families in need is surpassing the network’s collective ability to provide basic resources, including food, shelter, emergency healthcare and travel assistance.”
Providing medical services (including immunizations) to asylum-seekers is projected to cost the county more than $4 million this year, Supervisor Jim Desmond said, and the lawsuit seeks to have the federal government pay those costs. It’s not clear exactly what they are asking for, partly because the county’s legal department hasn’t actually filed a complaint.
Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, the only “no” vote, characterized the lawsuit as pure politics.
“In an unprecedented maneuver today, my colleagues voted to hastily sue the federal government. This was done without any input from county staff, who was not given the direction or time to do any meaningful research or outreach to the agencies involved.
“The gains we have made with regard to assisting our asylum-seeking families are now mired in a clumsy lawsuit that we have no chance of winning. I believe our federal immigration system needs major reforms, but I simply cannot put taxpayer dollars at risk for political posturing. I prefer to focus our time and efforts on real fixes rather than legal grandstanding.”
If Gaspar’s colleagues want ICE to hold these asylum-seekers longer, then ICE will need more beds – something Congressional negotiators on the Democrat side rejected earlier this week. Or perhaps they would rather have asylum seekers wait in Mexico until their court dates so they’re not left on the streets? Of course not. Their posturing is the first step in a plan to have the government feed, clothe, and shelter asylum-seekers while they wait for their hearings.