Officials in Long Beach voted Tuesday to temporarily house as many as 1,000 unaccompanied migrant children at the city’s convention center.
The City Council unanimously approved a plan to work with the federal government to establish a shelter at the sprawling facility.
The contract with the federal government would start within days and end Aug. 2 at the latest. Mayor Robert Garcia said children — who wouldn’t necessarily be housed all at once — could begin arriving within a week or two.
The children will receive three meals a day, medical and health evaluations, recreational opportunities and educational services.
Convention centers in Dallas and San Diego have already been converted to emergency shelters for unaccompanied minors who had been housed in overcrowded U.S. Border Patrol facilities.
Border authorities encountered more than 9,000 children without a parent in February, the highest single month since May 2019, when more than 11,000 unaccompanied minors came to the border.
After being processed by the Border Patrol, they are transferred to Health and Human Services. Eventually they will be released to a sponsor, usually a parent or close relative.
“It’s important for us that this is focused on family reunification,” Garcia said.
Also Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to ask federal authorities for permission to have its child services department find local relatives or foster families for unaccompanied minors housed in federal immigration facilities, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.
“With Long Beach moving forward,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said, “time is of the essence for us to provide all the support we can.”
Unlike adults in many situations, all unaccompanied minors are allowed to stay in the U.S. That dynamic has prompted many parents to either send kids on the journey to America alone, or get to the border and let them go the rest of the way. Most end up at least temporarily in shelters that are currently way beyond capacity.