The Long Beach Convention Center is now a temporary home to 150 migrant children who arrived on buses Thursday night.
The city welcomed a group of mostly girls between ages 5-17 and boys under 12 -- who’ve been on a long journey Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia can understand.
“I came in a different situation, but we were still poor and what helped us were caring Americans that were here to give us shelter and support, and that’s all these kids want and need,” said Garcia.
The purpose of this emergency shelter is to reunite the children with their families.
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While here, they’ll have access to beds, blankets, toys and games. They’ll also get daily education and there’s even a medical facility on site run by UCLA.
Immigrant advocates say it’s a major step up from the detention centers thousands of unaccompanied children first experience.
“An ability for them to also feel safe, even as they're dealing with a very traumatic situation which is that they're separated from their parents at this time,” said the executive director of CHIRLA, Angelica Salas.
Angelica Salas is the executive director of CHIRLA -- the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights -- She complimented the facility that she got to see this week, but says ultimately the children don’t belong here, they belong with family.
“This is the consequence of adults, of elected officials, adults who have not fulfilled their duty to reform our immigration laws,” she said.
Federal officials say the hope is to place children with a parent or sponsor within 7-10 days, but the process can often take as long as a month or more.
Chris Wese from Long Beach told us reunification has to be prioritized.
“Making sure that the kids actually are being put in positions to succeed long term. It’s a traumatic experience being separated from your family, in the conditions that they have, trying to come here to seek opportunity,” Wese said.
More children are expected to arrive in the months to come.
The site can hold up to 1,000 children at a time, but the site will only be open until August.