Convention Center to become migrant emergency shelter pending city council approval

Long Beach Convention Center.

The Long Beach Convention Center would become a designated emergency shelter site for migrant children arriving from Mexico, under a proposal being considered at Tuesday’s meeting by the Long Beach City Council.

The City released an official statement on Monday, April 5, noting that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement has requested the City of Long Beach specifically to assist with the mission to safely house children who are unattended by their parents. 

“The United States is experiencing a humanitarian situation at our southern border, with a significant number of unaccompanied minors currently housed in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities,” the opening line of the statement said.

According to the press release, “to ensure the safety and well-being of each child,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement has requested assistance from local governments throughout the nation to provide temporary facilities for the children, while the federal government works to reconnect them with family members or sponsors in the country. 

The press release noted that the City explored potential sites to assist, at the request of the federal government and concluded that the Long Beach Convention Center would be the best site to issue housing, food, recreational among other services to the children. 

The Convention Center would temporarily house up to 1,000 children for a period of 90 to 120 days. 

“Long Beach has a proud and long history of welcoming and helping immigrants and refugees. From our Cambodian community to the work done by our churches and faith organizations, we have led with compassion and kindness,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in the press release. “As an immigrant, I know how important it is to support all people, especially children — and I am proud to support our country in this important work.”

The federal government would be responsible for both funding and providing the major services needed to care for the children, with Long Beach playing a supporting role, providing the facility, and making connections to other appropriate nonprofit and government services, according to city officials.

“Long Beach [will be] playing a supporting role, providing the facility, and making connections to other appropriate non-profit and government services,” the press release said.

The City has been notified that the federal government would like to proceed with assigning the Long Beach Convention Center as an emergency shelter site and the item will be placed for the Long Beach City Council’s consideration for review and approval at Tuesday’s meeting.

According to City News Service, in the past few weeks convention centers in San Diego and Dallas have been converted into similar shelters.

The Convention Center is currently serving as mass COVID-19 vaccination site. However, the space has remained mostly empty during the pandemic due to bans on gatherings.

Additional reporting by City News Service

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