The Inland Empire was one of multiple locations in the nation the Trump administration was eyeing to either build or lease space for a detention facility for unaccompanied migrant children.
However, Democratic Congressman Mark Takano announced Wednesday, Riverside County has been removed from the list for consideration. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement was seeking to lease a building up to 91,000 square feet.
A public notice was made Aug. 5 and the California Globe confirmed the project would house up to 430 children and would bring into the region hundreds of jobs.
“Our country has a long-standing history of welcoming refugees and asylum-seekers with open arms, and in the Inland Empire, we support immigrant rights, providing safety to refugees, and respecting the dignity of all people. In our community, there is no room for hate, and there is certainly no room for yet another despicable detention center – we made that very clear by vehemently opposing these efforts from the very beginning,” said Takano.
However, some Californians were upset with the decision to not operate the detention facility in Riverside County. The August 5 notice posted by the General Services Administration, stated that the federal government was seeking to operate the facility for up to 17-years.
“Right, we don’t need that money in our economy. Did you go to the Bernie Sanders school of economics,” said disgruntled California resident Greg Donahue.
“Now the money will go to some deserving congressperson’s district,” said Nathaniel Robinson who disagreed with Takano’s position.
Takano said, “This is welcome news, but our fight against the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda is not over. I will continue working to address the humanitarian crisis created by the Administration’s hateful policies and upholding the values that our nation was founded on.”
A specific location for the new detention center has not been chosen. Federal law states when Unaccompanied Alien Children are under HHS custody they must provide care for each UAC, defined as a child who has no lawful immigration status in the United States; has not attained 18 years of age; and, with respect to whom, there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States, or no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody.
In August, Takano, and Reps. Pete Aguilar, Norma Torres, and Raul Ruiz sent a letter to the Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Jonathan Hayes opposing plans to establish a child detention facility in the Inland Empire and criticizing the Administration’s maltreatment of children and families at borders.
The same group of legislators prefers the children to be placed in foster care instead of a detention facility. They sent a second letter last week, to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Matthew Albence to express opposition to the leasing of any space for an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office in any of their respective districts, and urging him to reconsider any potential plans.
Republican Congressman Ken Calvert told the California Globe in August, “The number of unaccompanied children arriving at the southern border has increased by almost 70 percent this year compared to last year.”
Although Takano is attacking Trump and his administration, the proposed facility was made possible by Congressional members under the Homeland Security Act of 2002. This act was a directive by Congress to transfer the care and custody of minors to ORR from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to move away from the adult detention model. In the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which expanded and redefined HHS’s statutory responsibilities, Congress again made directives that each child must “be promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child,” subject to considerations of whether the child is a danger to self or others.