Mayor Opposes Permanent ‘Migrant Shelter’ in San Diego as 5,000 Are Released to the Streets

Mayor Opposes Permanent ‘Migrant Shelter’ in San Diego as 5,000 Are Released to the Streets

Buses drop off large groups of illegal immigrants in San Ysidro, Calif., on Feb. 29, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

3/4/2024

Updated: 3/7/2024

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors’ Feb. 27 decision to explore plans to develop a permanent “migrant transit shelter” would only worsen the border crisis and make the region an even bigger “magnet” for illegal immigration, says El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells.
“I don’t think that’s the answer. The answer is to close the border,” he told The Epoch Times March 1 at a transit center in his city where the U.S Border Patrol had released hundreds of illegal immigrants a day earlier.
A Border Patrol source confirmed the agency has released more than 5,000 illegal migrants to the streets of various cities, at transit centers in San Ysidro, El Cajon, and Oceanside in the last week or so.
Mayor of El Cajon Bill Wells stands near the city's transit station in El Cajon, Calif., on March 1, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mayor of El Cajon Bill Wells stands near the city's transit station in El Cajon, Calif., on March 1, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Last week, the board voted 4–1 to develop a proposal for a permanent transfer site and shelter.
According to plans for the site, it would “accommodate the flow of migrants into the San Diego region” and provide services for up to “500 individuals and/or families.”
“The location of the shelter should be close to the border or central San Diego to best serve those being released and to account for the next steps on their journeys, such as the need to connect to the airport or other transportation hubs,” the plans read.
Mr. Wells, a Republican running for Congress March 5 in California’s 51st Congressional, called President Joe Biden’s claim he needs the help of Congress to fix the immigration system political “theater.”
“He has dismantled it through executive orders,” Mr. Wells said.
The Biden administration, he said, has abandoned existing immigration and laws on asylum and deliberately caused the border woes, and is now “talking about ways to help mitigate the crisis they created.”
The border should remain open for hundreds of billions of dollars in cross-border trade with Mexico, he said, but illegal immigration has to be reduced.
A better solution would be to curb illegal immigration by adhering to asylum laws which stipulate refugees must seek asylum in the nearest safe country, rather than millions coming to the United States, Mr. Wells said.
He said he is concerned about national security, saying illegal immigrants who don’t surrender to Border Patrol, don’t want to be processed for a reason.
“They don’t want to have to interact with the authorities because they’ve already been thrown out and they’re coming back or they’re part of a gang or people that may have bad intentions for America,” he said.
U.S. Border Patrol agents monitor groups of illegal immigrants who crossed into the United States in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

U.S. Border Patrol agents monitor groups of illegal immigrants who crossed into the United States in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

El Cajon has typically seen fewer illegal immigrants than San Diego because it’s further away from San Diego International Airport, but Mr. Wells said he is now noticing an increase.
He has stated the allure of free health care, legal defense, and other amenities have undoubtedly “contributed to the surge” of more than 100,000 border encounters in the San Diego region, in the last several months.
He said it’s too early to tell exactly how the street releases will impact El Cajon, a city of about 100,000 located less than 20 miles from downtown San Diego.
“We don’t know how we absorb that. Our shelters are filled. Our hospitals are filled,” he said. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen. The County of San Diego has already focused on El Cajon as a dumping ground for homeless people. They bring them out here; they put them up in our hotels ... and that has significantly increased crime and problems on the streets.”
California’s sanctuary state policies aren’t helping, Mr. Wells said.
“Texas has tightened up, and California is a sanctuary state, so I think the cartels have gotten into their minds that the easiest way to get people in right now is through San Diego,” he said.
Texas National Guard agents prevent illegal immigrants from Venezuela from crossing a barbed wire fence to at the El Paso Sector Border after crossing the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, on Feb. 29, 2024. (Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images)

Texas National Guard agents prevent illegal immigrants from Venezuela from crossing a barbed wire fence to at the El Paso Sector Border after crossing the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, on Feb. 29, 2024. (Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images)

Proposed legislation such as Assembly Bill 1840, called the “California Dream for All Program,” which would offer illegal immigrants low-interest, non-repayable loans to make 20 percent down payments on home mortgages, isn’t helping either, he said.
The bill states that applicants “shall not be disqualified solely based on the applicant’s immigration status.”
“We’re encouraging people that are not legally citizens to come in, and we’re going to help them buy a home,” he said. “We’re going to give them free college. We even give them healthcare, and … the opportunity to have a sex change operation for free. We assign them an attorney to help with their immigration problems, and we pay for that.”
At the same time, American citizens are saying they’d like to have free college, free health care, and 20 percent down to buy a house, Mr. Wells said.
Californians, he said, are “rightly upset” that these benefits are being paid with their tax dollars, especially when the state is tens of billions of dollars in the hole.
According to a Feb. 20 report from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, California’s estimated budget deficit is at least $73 billion.
“We’re already struggling,” he said. “The people that are paying attention are shocked by what’s happening. They’re befuddled. They have no understanding of why this is happening.”
President Joe Biden delivers remarks about immigration and border security at the Brownsville Station in Olmito, Texas, on Feb. 29, 2024. (Cheney Orr/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden delivers remarks about immigration and border security at the Brownsville Station in Olmito, Texas, on Feb. 29, 2024. (Cheney Orr/Getty Images)

San Diego Supervisor Jim Desmond, who has demanded the Biden administration “fix the chaos” at the southern border, was the only dissenting vote against building the long-term migrant transfer site. 
“Under legal immigration, people apply through embassies, have their background checks done in their home country, and then, if accepted, are allowed to come to the country. Instead, we now have people jumping to the front of the line with no background check,” Mr. Desmond wrote on X March 3.
The street releases have increased since SBCS, formerly known as South Bay Community Services ran out of county funding and shut down its “Migrant Welcome Center” Feb. 22, which was operating at a closed school in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood. Between Oct. 11 and Feb. 22, the county paid the non-governmental organization $6 million to run it.
SBCS President and CEO Kathie Lembo said in a statement last week that “more than 81,000 migrants” passed through the center during that time and that 95 percent of them were transported to other cities across the United States.
The organization plans to submit a full accounting of expenditures to the county after all subcontractor invoices have been received and validated, Ms. Lembo said.
But Mr. Wells said the funds should have been spent to help American citizens living in San Diego County—not on the “illegal alien industrial complex.”
Chinese illegal immigrants settle at Willow Camp before being processed by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

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

The lack of transparency surrounding the non-governmental agencies, or NGOs, that are receiving government funding to help illegal immigrants is disconcerting, he said.
“I’m very suspicious. They’re very secretive,” he said. “I’m very concerned because if you look at the homeless situation, the NGOs are getting very rich off of this. ... I think there is a lot of money changing hands, and there is not very much transparency.”
When he pushed back against the “homeless industrial complex,” Mr. Wells said an individual at the San Diego Housing Commission wrote to his campaign manager warning if he didn’t knock it off he would never be elected to any position ever again.
“It’s because we’re going after their money,” Mr. Wells said. “It’s like mafia tactics.”
U.S. apprehensions of illegal and inadmissible migrants from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2023, were 5.9 million, and counting “known gotaways”—those whom Border Patrol agents record but don’t catch—more than 8 million illegal immigrants have entered the country in less than three years.
But Mr. Wells said he believes 8 million is “misleading” and that it’s “probably more like 10 million and maybe even more.”
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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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