POMONA, Calif - About a hundred migrant children who arrived unaccompanied at the U.S.-Mexico border arrived Saturday at temporary housing at the Pomona Fairplex, which will become the latest waystation sheltering children until they can be reunited with family or placed with sponsors.
Between 200 and 250 children are expected to arrive at the Fairplex this weekend. The facility can house up to 2,500. The children are expected to be primarily teenagers.
"These children, as you know, have endured abuse, persecution, deep poverty and violence, and they are seeking simply refuge,'' County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. "... The mission here is to provide whatever support we can once those children come into our arms. And I just can't, again, reiterate how important it is for us to be alongside with these children and help them in our community.
"The goal of this emergency intake site is to be able to partner and provide a dignified, safe, comfortable and caring environment,'' she said.
Children at the site will be placed in a dormitory-type environment, with a place to sleep, recreational activities, education, dining and medical and mental health services.
It mirrors a site that opened in late April at the Long Beach Convention Center, and others already running in cities such as San Diego and Dallas.
Bonnie Preston, acting regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said earlier this month that a majority of the unaccompanied children arriving at the border come with names and phone numbers of sponsors in the United States to show border patrol agents after turning themselves over.
However, before a child can be placed, the sponsor has to "be vetted, and it takes time,'' Preston said.
In some cases, if the sponsor doesn't seem like a safe option, the children end up staying in HHS custody in a long-term care facility that provides additional services, including county services to find a non-relative guardianship or foster placement, according to Preston.
The Fairplex Shelter is expected to remain open through the end of the year.
"We as Americans have a responsibility to ensure we're providing safe and clean accommodations that recognize the dignity and humanity of individuals in our custody, especially when it comes to children,'' said Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles.