U.S. proposal to open shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in Inland Empire draws fire
Congressional representatives and immigrant advocates are criticizing the federal government’s proposal to open a new shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in the Inland Empire.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement is looking to lease a site of up to 91,000 square feet to house approximately 430 children, according to a solicitation posted Aug. 5 by the General Services Administration on the Federal Business Opportunities website.
The shelter is slated to feature 215 bedrooms, each housing two children, according to the plan. It would also include 11 bathrooms, each with seven lavatories and four showers, as well as classrooms, a medical office, a dining room and five youth soccer fields.
It would employ 143 staff per eight-hour shift, according to the plan.
In the solicitation, officials said they were looking for a location within the following boundaries:
South: E. Alessandro Blvd. to Central Ave. to I-91
East: I-210 to I-10 to Alabama St. to Barton Rd. to San Timoteo Canyon Rd. to Redlands Blvd.
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat from Riverside, said he opposed the federal government’s plan to house migrant children in the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties. San Bernardino County is already home to the country's second-largest immigrant detention center, the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, which is owned and operated by GEO Group.
“Since this announcement was made, I have heard from constituents who have expressed outrage and concern over the establishment of such a facility in our community and I stand firmly with them in opposition to more child detention centers,” Takano said.
He called the need for the facility “a direct result of the president’s anti-immigrant agenda,” pointing to the Trump administration’s separation of some migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border and detention of migrant children in overcrowded facilities.
U.S. Rep. Norma Torres, another California Democrat whose district stretches from Pomona to Rialto, said such a facility “is against our values,” but didn’t go so far as to say she would seek to prevent its construction.
“Unaccompanied children arriving at our southern border in search of refuge belong in loving homes, not in a facility under U.S. custody,” Torres said in a statement. “I will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that conditions are humane and that the proper standards are in place to safeguard the lives of the migrant children.”
Javier Hernandez, director of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, said the coalition of more than 40 organizations is "extremely concerned" about the proposal to build a shelter in the Inland Empire.
He compared the government's youth shelters to "detention camps," explaining that the administration recently cut English classes and recreational activities for migrant children in federally contracted shelters.