Like the surge in unaccompanied minors at the border a few years ago, more and more unaccompanied children are showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border every year. The reason: they’ve been recruited by violent gangs and drug cartels, or they’ve fled their home countries to escape gang violence, domestic violence, and persecution. Most of the children who are apprehended at the border are boys and young men, because they are more likely to be recruited into gangs. The only way to stop the flow of children trying to enter the country is to fight the violence that is motivating them to leave their homes.
(online) Nonprofit organizations in California have banded together to urge the federal government to provide the necessary resources to build a new facility in Santa Barbara that would serve as an alternative to overcrowded detention centers in Los Angeles. The Santa Barbara facility has been proposed as a temporary housing alternative for children and families who are caught illegally crossing the U.S. border, and it would offer them a safe, healthy environment, with supervised activities. These types of facilities would be a good alternative to the detention centers currently running at near capacity in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Berks County, Pennsylvania, where children are being held with unrelated adults.
A Civil Rights Lawsuit was filed against the County of San Luis Obispo, CA on July 2, 2015 for their failure to immediately respond to a request for a housing facility for children who were detained in the United States. The case filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, CA, alleges that the county violated the U.S. and California State Departments of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Regulatory Improvement Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5119, by failing to comply with the Child Welfare Rules, 45 CFR, Part 75, Subparts A-E, as well as the Child Placement Law, California Health and Safety Code § 1776.
Transparency and oversight requirement
Marisela Morales, Executive Director, CAUSE
On the eleventh. In May, a coalition of community organizations, immigrant advocates, and stakeholders from Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties met to discuss their concerns about the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) plan to house 5,000 unaccompanied minors at Camp Roberts. The Coalition agrees that of all the states eligible for housing, California should be the preferred host state. However, we cannot endorse Camp Roberts as a suitable location, nor the use of a military base for such purposes.
Very little information about Camp Roberts is available to the public. The Coalition has many questions on the four main topics:
Concern #1: Military installations are under the jurisdiction of the federal government, not local governments. This means that there is generally much less access and interaction with the local community, which immigration advocates say is necessary to ensure transparency and control.
Unaccompanied immigrant children are minors under the age of 18 who arrive at the U.S. border unaccompanied by a parent or guardian and suffer severe psychological trauma, compounded by age and language barriers that prevent them from protecting themselves, says Julissa Peña of the Santa Barbara Immigrant Legal Defense Center. This makes unaccompanied migrant children one of the most vulnerable groups of migrants. It is not in their best interest to be housed in remote refugee centers with little oversight from immigration lawyers, medical professionals, local supporters and advocates.
- Is it a temporary structure? For how long is the factory contractually bound?
- Will local city and county governments have access to the terms of the contract between HHS and Camp Roberts and be able to provide oversight?
- What are the monitoring and reporting mechanisms? How will independent agencies have access to on-site monitoring? What kind of access will the public and press have?
Worry #2: Nursing homes on military bases are not subject to the same regulations or oversight mechanisms as licensed homes.
Incarceration is never in the best interest of children, but is especially destructive in large institutions that are not licensed or equipped to handle children.
- Will Camp Roberts meet the standards of the California Children’s Services license for housing, food, medical care, behavioral health care, legal advice and representation, if applicable, etc.?
Worry #3: The remote location of Camp Roberts military base exacerbates these problems.
Social services and non-profits that provide counseling, language services, education, etc. are extremely limited in size and scope in the region, and resources such as immigration lawyers are rare. With little information, we can only assume that it will be necessary to import a large workforce from outside the local community.
In the past, the government entrusted the management of these facilities to private companies, where profit was considered more important than the quality of care.
- What companies are hired to provide services at Camp Roberts? Do local non-profits and social service providers trust them?
Worry #4: Camp Roberts is one of five active American Superfund sites in SLO County.
We need more information about the dump at this location.
- How far from the dump is the children’s home?
- Has an independent environmental impact assessment been carried out? If so, will the results of this study be made available to the public?
- What are the current lead and asbestos levels?
Given all of these challenges, temporary residence in or closer to a city provides the protection, safety, and accessibility that children need, with some oversight from local authorities and access to resources, including nonprofit organizations, immigration advocates, and the media, that serve as formal and informal oversight mechanisms on the system.
In a nutshell.
We recognize the challenges facing the Biden administration. The current infrastructure of the asylum procedure, including reception centres, is the result of decades of political decisions and is in need of a thorough reform. At the same time, we stand in solidarity with the advocates of immigrants who are demanding that the use of entry centres on military bases should not be considered for the purpose of receiving asylum seekers.
We need safe housing for all immigrants, including unaccompanied children, in places that can be regulated consistently across the country and that have strong oversight mechanisms.
We know that when children arrive in San Luis Obispo County, people are ready to welcome them.
The people of the Central Coast are caring and want to be helpful. We all know that these children need a place to stay until they are reunited with their families. But our desire to protect and help them does not mean that every place is appropriate. The first way to become an effective advocate is to ask yourself: Is the location of Camp Roberts in the best interest of the children?
Allies for SLO County Immigration Justice – Bend the Arc : Jewish Action SLO – Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) – Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO) – Central Coast Coalition for Undocumented Student Success (CCC-…USS) – Central Coast Immigrant Network (COIN) – Fund for Santa Barbara – Future Leaders of America (FLA) – Immigrant Legal Defense Center (ILDC) – Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) – Paso People’s Action – People of Faith for Justice, SLO – Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund (PPCCAF) – Students for Immigration Justice, Cal Poly – United Domestic Workers of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties
COMMUNITY LEADERS IN THE CENTRAL COASTAL STRATA: Gloria Soto (Santa Maria City Councilmember) – Patricia Solorio (Public Defender) – Vanessa Frank (Immigration Attorney, Ventura)
How do you load…
We’ll get through this together, Atascadero.
Central Coast communities have been trying to help unaccompanied minors, who arrive in the United States alone without a parent or guardian. Unfortunately, the federal government’s policy of placing unaccompanied minors with relatives and foster families has been fraught with problems, and in many cases, the children have been neglected and abused. This has resulted in a number of juvenile dependent adult cases in the courts. In response, Central Coast organizations are advocating for state legislation that would allow the placement of unaccompanied minors in safe and accessible housing.. Read more about domestic violence volunteer nj and let us know what you think.
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