Hundreds of Illegal Immigrants Released Onto San Diego Streets After Funding Runs Out

Hundreds of Illegal Immigrants Released Onto San Diego Streets After Funding Runs Out

A van holding illegal immigrants drives into a school being used to shelter migrants in San Diego, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

2/23/2024

Updated: 2/27/2024

The U.S. Border Patrol began releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants in San Diego on Feb. 23, a day after a nonprofit group that was contracted to provide transportation, food, and other basic services for the immigrants ran out of funding and shut down operations.
More than 550 people were released that morning, a Border Patrol source who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation told The Epoch Times.
The illegal immigrants were released at the Iris transit station in the city’s San Ysidro district, just north of the U.S.–Mexico border, after being transported from a processing facility in the Otay Mesa neighborhood of San Diego that was at 190 percent over capacity, the person said.
San Diego County has paid $6 million to South Bay Community Services (SBCS) since October 2023 to operate a “migrant welcome center” at a closed school in San Diego.
The center, which shut down on Feb. 23, was still operating on Feb. 22, with a steady stream of vans and buses shuttling illegal immigrants to and from the facility.
A taxi driver, one of three waiting for fares outside the facility on Feb. 22, told The Epoch Times that he often runs the immigrants to the airport, bus stations, and cheap hotels in the San Diego area but that Feb. 22 was unusually slow for him.
The man, who also asked not to be named, said he still saw bus after bus and van after van transporting people to the site.
Lately, he said, there have been “a lot [of people] from China.”
Recently, an illegal immigrant from Senegal claimed that after he had gone three days without food before he arrived, nonprofit staff offered him only an apple and water, the cab driver said.
“He was yelling. He was really angry,” the driver said.
The organization operated secretively, avoiding media attention, and when its staff saw news crews on one side of the facility, buses and vans would enter and exit from the opposite side of the gated complex behind blacked-out chain-link fences.
Illegal immigrants utilize shelter services provided by a nonprofit organization in San Diego on Feb. 22, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times

Illegal immigrants utilize shelter services provided by a nonprofit organization in San Diego on Feb. 22, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times

A bus driven by border patrol agents carrying illegal immigrants drives outside of San Diego on Feb. 22, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A bus driven by border patrol agents carrying illegal immigrants drives outside of San Diego on Feb. 22, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Epoch Times reporters witnessed several numbered—but otherwise unmarked—buses entering the facility and later followed some that appeared to be headed to a known illegal border crossing near a sewage plant off Via Nacional in San Diego on Feb. 22.
These “ghost buses,” as they’ve been called, have become a common sight in border states for the past three years.
Several San Diego hotels—closed to the public—will continue to be used to provide temporary shelter for immigrants who are then flown to destinations across the United States. Two such former hotels are operated by Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Services.
San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN), run by Jewish Family Services, is “a coalition of human rights and service organizations, attorneys, and community leaders dedicated to aiding immigrants and their families in the San Diego border region,” according to the group’s website.
The coalition states: “Individuals seized by CBP and ICE have few resources to defend themselves. The SDRRN stands ready to respond to the needs of vulnerable immigrants and their families—advocating for their safety, providing emergency assistance, and coordinating free and low-cost legal representation to defend against family separation and unjust deportation.”
Chinese illegal immigrants walk together before being processed by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Chinese illegal immigrants walk together before being processed by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Border Backlash

Meanwhile, the backlash against the Biden administration’s border security and immigration policies has intensified.
El Cajon, California, Mayor Bill Wells said in a Feb. 22 statement that the closure of the migrant welcome center run by South Bay Community Services “serves as a stark reminder of the incompetence” displayed by the county, state, and federal governments in addressing the border crisis.
“Despite allocating significant funding, there was a glaring lack of foresight and a failure to develop a sustainable long-term plan. In less than five months, $6 million of county tax dollars were squandered without tangible results or benefits for our residents,” he said.
“The ill-conceived notion of ‘If you build it, they will come’ has unfortunately rung true as the opening of the migrant resource center coincided with a dramatic increase in daily numbers of migrants entering San Diego County.”
The allure of free health care, legal defense, and various other amenities undoubtedly contributed to the surge, resulting in more than 100,000 border encounters in the past five months alone, Mr. Wells said.
While El Cajon “will do everything” that it can to “protect and prioritize” residents, he said, “the failure lies squarely with our one-party system in the county and state, which has consistently neglected the needs of San Diego County residents in favor of misguided policies and priorities.”
“As street releases become inevitable and we see an increase in those sleeping at the airport, it will become abundantly clear how our community has been let down by those entrusted with governance,” Mr. Wells said.
Migrants cross the Tijuana River and move toward the U.S. border wall in Tijuana, Mexico, on May 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Migrants cross the Tijuana River and move toward the U.S. border wall in Tijuana, Mexico, on May 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

‘Humanitarian Crisis’

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors declared the surge in illegal immigration a “humanitarian crisis” in September 2023, and has asked the federal government to either curb illegal immigration or provide funding.
Supervisor Jim Desmond has consistently opposed using county funds to pay for illegal immigrants and has asked the federal government to “fix the chaos at the border,” or cough up federal funds to pay for it.
Manny Bayon, a San Diego spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council union, recently told The Epoch Times that agents will have no choice but to release illegal immigrants into the streets because they are allowed to detain them for only 72 hours.
“The border is bad and getting worse,” he said.
Illegal immigrants apprehended on Feb. 22 included primarily those from China, Japan, Egypt, Mauritania, Honduras, Peru, and Venezuela, according to a Border Patrol source.
Illegal immigrants utilize shelter services provided by a nonprofit organization in San Diego on Feb. 22, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times

Illegal immigrants utilize shelter services provided by a nonprofit organization in San Diego on Feb. 22, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times

Center Closes

SBCS President and CEO Kathie Lembo said in a statement on Feb. 22 that the migrant welcome center has provided fundamental services such as food, toiletries, and transportation to 81,000 migrants processed by the Border Patrol since Oct. 11, 2023.
“This temporary support was vital and prevented tens of thousands of individuals from being stranded in San Diego without the support needed to continue their journey,” she said.
Almost all of the migrants—99.5 percent—who were served at the center traveled on to destinations outside of the county, Ms. Lembo said.
“I am immensely grateful to our staff, nonprofit and faith-based partners, and volunteers who have worked holidays, weekends, and into the night in an effort to serve these migrants with dignity, care, and integrity,” she said.
SBCS intends to submit a full accounting of expenditures to the county after all subcontractor invoices have been received and validated in the coming days, Ms. Lembo said.
“While the Migrant Welcome Center is closing its doors, [the] mission to strengthen communities and make a positive impact on the lives of those we serve continues,” she said.
Ms. Lembo thanked the board of supervisors “under the leadership of Chairwoman Nora Vargas” for funding the operation.
“Although immigration is a federal issue, we are grateful to the County Board of Supervisors for their investment in this humanitarian crisis—even if temporary,” she said.
A Chinese illegal immigrant moves towards an opening at the United States border wall in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A Chinese illegal immigrant moves towards an opening at the United States border wall in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Illegal Immigration

From October 2023 through December 2023, there were 785,422 encounters along the southwest border with a record of about 302,034 in December alone, according to Customs and Border Protection data. On Dec. 19, 2023, more than 12,600 illegal immigrants were encountered—the most ever recorded in a single day.
Total U.S. apprehensions of illegal and inadmissible aliens in fiscal year 2022–23—from Oct. 1, 2022, to Sept. 30, 2023—were 3.2 million. In fiscal year 2021–22, there were more than 2.7 million, and counting known “gotaways”—those that Border Patrol agents record but don’t catch—more than 8 million illegal immigrants have entered the country in less than three years.

Impeachment

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, accused of dereliction of duty by the House Committee on Homeland Security, was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month.
Committee Chairman Dr. Mark E. Green (R-Tenn.) said in a Feb. 13 statement: “Secretary Mayorkas has willfully and systemically refused to comply with the laws of the United States, and breached the public trust. As a result, our country has suffered from an unprecedented border crisis that has turned every state into a border state, causing untold suffering in communities across our country.
“With this vote, Congress has made clear that we will not tolerate such lawlessness.”
John Fredricks contributed to this report.
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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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