Federal and state intervention needed
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) this week expanded drop offs of immigrants seeking asylum to southwest Riverside County. Since March 3, CBP has been regularly dropping off families in the Blythe area of Riverside County. Between the southwest and east county drop-offs, the county team has picked up 257 immigrants seeking asylum from CBP this month.
While immigration policies and practices are matters for the federal government, local counties have been dealing with CBP drop offs for the last month. CBP informs the county about the timing of the drop-offs. The timing, number of drop-offs, and number of families and individuals dropped off is entirely dependent upon CBP.
County officials Wednesday met with state and federal representatives to discuss the impact these drop offs are having on the county and to request support.
“This is a federal issue, yet the county is providing safety net services with very limited resources to these individuals and families,” said Board Chair Karen Spiegel, Second District Supervisor. “We need support and intervention from the state and federal government before our local resources are overwhelmed.”
After picking up the immigrants seeking asylum from CBP, a county team administers rapid COVID-19 testing for everyone and practices strict COVID-19 safeguards to reduce and stop potential disease transmission. These safeguards include ensuring all staff and immigrants are wearing personal protective equipment.
If someone tests positive, the individual and any others exposed are provided private accommodations for isolation at local motels throughout Riverside County. However, available motel space is extremely limited and this practice will not be sustainable without immediate intervention from the state and federal governments.
Individuals and families who are not exposed to COVID-19, are provided shelter, meals and clothing from local nonprofit organizations.
“We are extremely appreciative of the hard work done by nonprofits and County staff to secure temporary shelter for these people in need, but we expect our federal counterparts to step up and address this pressing problem,” said Supervisor Chuck Washington, whose Third District includes Murrieta. “Riverside County cannot shoulder this responsibility alone, especially as the numbers are expected to grow.”
The county provides humane, short-term services based on the immediate needs of each family. Without any clear funding path from the state or federal government, these services are funded by the county, including the motel room stays for those requiring isolation and quarantine. The average length of time each family spends in Riverside County is a few days.
These drop-offs are expected to occur regularly in the southwest area of Riverside County and the Blythe area. In 2019, more than 1,000 families (totaling more than 2,800 people) were dropped off in Riverside County and stayed in Riverside County for one to three days before traveling to their asylum sponsors in other parts of the United States. The current immigration surge is anticipated to be far greater in numbers than the 2019 surge, as well as an additional complicating factor of COVID-19 disease control.
Riverside County • Contributed
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