City of Bell Considers Sheltering Immigrant Children

The city will review an application from the Salvation Army at a city council meeting Wednesday

The city of Bell has approved a letter of support to open a shelter to house 150 immigrant children who have crossed the border into the United States, as the Bell City Council voted unanimously to do so after more than three hours of public input Wednesday night.

The Bell City Council reviewed an application from the Salvation Army to operate a shelter to house immigrant children in front of a feisty, but not confrontational standing room-only crowd.

Bell Police were on tactical at Wednesday night's meeting in case the debate over sheltering migrant children from Central America boiled over, as seen in Murrieta recently.

"I'm actually ashamed of not bringing my daughter here," Bell resident Norma Saenz said during the forum. "The reason why I didn’t bring her here was because I was imagining there was a lot of hatred, a lot of ugly."

"What I saw in Murrieta was so vicious, and so hateful, and so intolerant. I hope that America can see today that there's still communities that will embrace,” one man said at the meeting.

There was no drama Wednesday night, just residents both for and against the proposal.

"These parents should have the responsibility of protecting their children," Maywood resident Sandra Orozco said. "No. But what they did, is they kicked them in the streets like dogs."

The city’s mayor, Nestor Valencia, says he sees Bell’s effort to help the children as redemption for the years of corruption that tarnished the city.

Valencia also sees a little of himself in the children’s plight -- he was 4 years old when he entered the country illegally from Mexico.

In February the mayor signed a resolution supporting a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that cited the city's ilarge mmigrants population and implementing a pathway to citizenship. 

The City of Bell is 93.1 percent Hispanic, with 46.9 percent of its residents being foreign born, according to the city's website.

Bell has been the center of media coverage for the last several years as its city officials were convicted on corruption charges. 

"I'm at a loss. Other than political publicity, why this is needed? We don't know if this (Salvation Army) facility meets the federal criteria for the approval of this facility," a woman at the meeting said.

The Salvation Army, however, said the offer was not political.

"Our mission has always been to try and meet needs without discrimination," Salvation Army Capt. Grady Brown said.

Samia Khan contributed to this report.

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