Los Angeles

LA Mayor Working to Find Refuge for Central American Migrants

Mayor Eric Garcetti said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asked the city to help coordinate assistance for the children

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday he believes the city can help find ways of providing shelter for some of the immigrant children who have poured across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape violence in Central America.

The mayor said the city was contacted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about possibly working with nonprofit groups to help find housing and legal representation for immigrant children.

"They (nonprofits) have a lot of experience with that, of helping reunify families and being able to -- with private donations -- be able to house children," the mayor said.

Garcetti first discussed the issue at a morning forum hosted by Politico magazine, telling the crowd that the children are alone, and as Americans, we should "get them someplace safe and secure."

Asked later about possible city involvement in finding shelter for the immigrant children, he said, "As a father, the most important thing for me is first to reunite them with their parents."

But the mayor said the city could simply help the federal government connect with nonprofit groups that can provide services for the children while they await some resolution to their immigration cases.

"Here in Los Angeles ... hopefully these kids can be less isolated and we can deal with the humanitarian aspects before we deal with their legal cases," he said, noting that some of the children likely have family in the Los Angeles area.

Finding homes for the flood of Central American immigrants who have illegally crossed the border has become a heated national debate.

It reached a boiling point in recent weeks in Murrieta in Riverside County, where residents protested the arrival of buses carrying immigrants to a Border Patrol station.

The vitriolic protest, featuring residents waving signs and flags, prompted the buses to re-route to San Ysidro near the border in San Diego County, where the immigrants were processed before being released to other facilities.

The city of Bell also has plans to open a temporary shelter to house some of the Central American children. 

"Government agencies have put out that they need more resources," Bell Mayor Nestor Valencia said. "The Bell Shelter, which is owned and operated by the Salvation Army, has extended their hand to the government, to the children. And I support it."

Valencia said that when the shelter is ready, it will be able to accommodate 150 migrants. 

"I think that these two mayors that have opened their arms to these children and have made it public are an incredible start," League of United Latin American Citizens activist Kathz Jurado said. 

Earlier this month, Garcetti announced the Los Angeles Police Department would stop detaining undocumented immigrants past their jail times for the federal government, saying the change would help build community trust and allow the LAPD to focus on issues such as gang violence and drugs. 

About 52,000 unaccompanied children have been captured at the U.S. border this year, nearly twice the number last year, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Beverly White contributed to this report.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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