San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the development of a comprehensive plan for the possible influx of asylum seekers and refugees, with the potential lifting of the federal Title 42 policy. 

Supervisors Joel Anderson and Nora Vargas authored the proposal that seeks to ensure asylum seekers and refugees are treated with dignity and have access to the resources they need. The County’s Chief Administrative Officer is instructed to develop a Comprehensive Preparedness plan to identify actions that can be taken to ensure asylum seekers entering the United States will not add to the current homeless crisis. 

“Now, more than ever, we should lead the way in building a just and humane immigration system that rises to meet the challenges of the current situation around the world,'' Vargas said in a statement after the Tuesday Vote. 

Robbins-Meyer will report back in 30 days with short-term solutions to ensure that current asylum seekers released on the street by the federal government do not exacerbate the current homeless population in the region. According to the Board Letter, Robbins-Meyers may consider working with the state and federal government, along with non-governmental organizations and faith-based groups, and find more shelter space.

The plan also involves Robbins-Meyer working with regional groups on funding sources, and sending a letter to the country’s Congressional delegation urging them to prioritize comprehensive immigration reform. 

The U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts ordered a temporary stay to maintain the Title 42 immigration restrictions on Dec.19, 2022, which were scheduled to end on Dec.21, 2022. With the policy still in place, the supreme court is scheduled to hear additional arguments this spring. 

According to County officials, during a four-day period in late December, “existing migrant shelters reached and surpassed capacity as the onward travel of asylum seekers was delayed due to weather and travel-related challenges”. This resulted in the “street release” of hundreds of asylum seekers by federal authorities. 

It is estimated that between 800 and 1,000 asylum seekers were released at transit centers through the County by the federal government during this time. 

County officials highlighted that the delay in the proposed lifting of Title 42 provided “a brief window of time to prepare for the anticipated substantial increase in the number of asylum seekers”. 

Vargas highlighted while it's important to emphasize that immigration remains a federal responsibility, the county is working to do everything it can to make sure migrants fleeing persecution feel safe.

Scott Santarosa, a pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in the Barrio Logan neighborhood, said his faith asks him to “welcome the stranger.''

Santarosa said it's in the best interest of all San Diegans that the county have a plan “so these aspiring Americans can be kept safe.'' A lack of county help will place a burden on faith communities, and “we cannot do it alone,'' Santarosa added.

Several plan opponents said the county treats migrants better than homeless U.S. citizens, while another cited security concerns. 

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