A group of state lawmakers recently traveled to the U.S. border with Mexico to visit a federal detention center and a nonprofit shelter. Officials said the trip was designed to provide a comparison between the two experiences and possibly prompt further action by elected officials.

The group includes several Santa Monica based officials including State Senator Ben Allen, Representative Richard Bloom and former Mayor Tony Vazquez. It was organized by the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and also included representatives from the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

In announcing the trip, Jewish Caucus staff said the organization has grown increasingly concerned with federal immigration policy and widespread reports of abuse and mistreatment of asylum-seekers at the southern border.

Migrants arriving at the border have three choices based on their path of travel and mitigating factors. Many individuals that travel through Mexico to reach the U.S. are now required to wait in Mexico while their paperwork is processed. Individuals that arrive at the border via another route, often by boat, don’t quality for the remain in Mexico policy and are placed in an ICE detention center. While some families are still being separated at the border, others are being let into the country, fitted with ankle monitors, and released onto the streets.

After visiting the Otay Mesa Detention Center, the officials spent time at the Migrant Family Shelter operated by Jewish Family Services (JFS). The shelter provides services to migrants including legal aid, food and temporary shelter.

“It was at once powerful and heartbreaking to come face to face with the immigration crisis, and see the inspired work being done by JFS, ACLU and HIAS to overcome it,” said Senator Ben Allen, Chair of the Jewish Caucus. “These organizations are under-resourced, over-performing and need all of our support to help these courageous asylum seekers—many of whom are victims of war, domestic violence, and persecution— find a better life.”

Staff from the Jewish Caucus said while immigration is under Federal jurisdiction, it is important to have State lawmakers aware of the situation and understand the impacts Federal policies are having within the state.

“We have a migrant crisis at our doorstep, and instead of greeting our brothers and sisters in need with open arms, we are throwing people in cages,” said Maria Elena Durazo, Vice Chair of the Latino Caucus. “The detention center my colleagues and I visited are no place for the many individuals who are rightfully seeking asylum. I am grateful that Jewish and Latino groups in the legislature and on the ground are joining together to help those in need.”

The delegation included: Jewish Caucus Chair, Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Vice Chair, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-San Fernando Valley); Latino Caucus Vice Chair, Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles); Senators Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), and Henry Stern (D-Thousand Oaks); Assemblymembers Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto),  Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), Adrin Nazarian (D- Van Nuys); and Board of Equalization member Antonio Vazquez.


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