Funding Dries Up for NGO Assisting Illegal Immigrants in San Diego

Funding Dries Up for NGO Assisting Illegal Immigrants in San Diego

Migrants cross the Tijuana River bed towards the San Diego port of entry to the United States on May 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

2/19/2024

Updated: 2/26/2024

San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond is demanding the Biden administration take “immediate” and “decisive” action to fund a non-government agency that has been contracted by the county to assist illegal immigrants at a closed school in the City Heights neighborhood.
The county has already spent $6 million to fund the NGO SBCS—formerly known as the South Bay Community Services—in the last four months. The organization provides transportation, basic needs, and other services for illegal immigrants.
But funding for the organization is set to run out Feb. 22.
Illegal immigrants gather at a processing center run by nonprofit groups in the City Heights neighborhood in San Diego on Oct. 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal immigrants gather at a processing center run by nonprofit groups in the City Heights neighborhood in San Diego on Oct. 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

In light of that, “we anticipate a surge in individuals sleeping in our airports and streets,” Mr. Desmond said in a Feb. 19 press release.
If the NGO shuts down, the U.S. Border Patrol will have no choice but to release hundreds of illegal immigrants a day onto the streets, said Manny Bayon, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council union in San Diego.
“Our hands are tied. So we’ll have to release them on the streets. We can’t hold them anymore. Our immigration detention centers are capped out,” he said in the statement.
While there is “no law and order at the border,” the NGOs provide a necessary service to transport and assist illegal immigrants, he said.
“They’re costing a lot of money, but they steer them in the right direction to low-income housing, welfare, medical assistance,” he said.
Mr. Desmond has consistently opposed using local funds for “federal ineptness,” arguing county tax dollars are better spent on public safety and tackling homelessness. And, in mid-September, the County Board of Supervisors declared their border woes a “humanitarian crisis.”
It has escalated to “alarming levels” with more than 100,000 border encounters recorded in San Diego over the past five months, Mr. Desmond said in the press release.
“This failure lies squarely at the feet of the federal government,” he said. “We were initially receiving 300 to 400 migrants a day, but now we’re seeing 800 to 900.”
The federal government needs to step up and secure the border and “responsibly manage” the current surge in illegal immigration, he said.
The county is already grappling with a severe homelessness problem, thousands of illegal immigrants will only make the crisis worse, Mr. Desmond said.
“This chaotic approach to governance is no way to run a country,” he said.
He called on the Biden administration to provide funds to operate temporary shelters or housing on federal properties for illegal immigrants waiting to be processed and transported to their final destinations “instead of releasing them onto our streets and transit centers.”

The NGO

Around Thanksgiving, news reports surfaced that San Diego International Airport was overrun with about 300 illegal immigrants, when SBCS dropped them off, sometimes a couple of days before their flights, according to Mr. Desmond.
The organization has also been staging illegal immigrants at a closed school in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood since last fall.
According to documents obtained by The Epoch Times, the San Diego Unified School District leased the former Central Elementary School at 4063 Polk Avenue as signed by SBCS President and CEO Kathryn Lembo on Oct. 24, 2023.
Ms. Lembo told The Epoch Times in a statement that “the number of migrants arriving at the center has increased significantly over the last few weeks,” and that the organization’s “finite resources have been stretched to the limit.”
“We will continue working with the County and our partners in hopes of identifying additional resources to keep the center open, preventing hundreds of individuals a day from being stranded in San Diego without the support they need to continue their journey,” she said.
SBCS listed UnidosUS, a leftwing Hispanic civil rights advocacy organization formerly known as the National Council de La Raza, as an affiliate on its website in October.
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Brad Jones

Brad Jones

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Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

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