A Far Walk From Home for Migrant Children


arriyon byers

By Arriyon Byers
Podcast Editor

With a unanimous vote of 9-0, the Long Beach City Council has approved the plan to use the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center to provide emergency shelter, food, and recreational activities to children affected by ongoing humanitarian conditions at the U.S-Mexico border. The Long Beach Convention Center has become the second temporary facility in California for unaccompanied children.

Under this arrangement, The Long Beach Convention Center will temporarily house up to 1,000 children for a period of 90 to 120 days. They will be provided with three meals a day, medical and health evaluations, recreational conveniences, educational services, and more importantly, be reunited with relatives or sponsors. Additionally, to ease public concern, the police chief has confirmed the feds will handle security inside and out, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, will not be included.

On Tuesday, April 6th, Long Beach City Mayor, Dr. Robert Garcia publicly announced in an interview with CBS Los Angeles news, “We have a massive humanitarian challenge that is happening across the border. We also know that these are children and these are kids and our focus needs to be to ensure that these kids–that are minors, and that are here for a variety of reasons–and no fault to their own, they need our help.” 

City leaders and other staff members also clarified that before the children officially arrive in Long Beach, every child will have family members or sponsors already identified, seeing that this was a major issue last year with the Trump administration. 

To many Long Beach residents, this temporary housing plan was seen as “band-aid solution to a bigger problem”, which is why multiple advocacy groups and protestors rallied outside the Long Beach Convention Center to voice their disastifaction. On Saturday, April 10th, following the approval of the migrant detention center, social activists from Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition and other allied organizations stormed the streets of downtown Long Beach to rally against the decision to house undocumented migrant youth. 

Photograph of Advocacy groups marching to protest City’s Council approval of migrant detention center at Long Beach Convention Center.

Executive director of Long Beach, James Suazo, disclosed, “We cannot support the expansion of detention facilities, incarceration of children and the continued criminalization of immigrants.” Since the federal government, which has a long history of performing abuse and mistreatment of youth in detention centers, will be operating the facility, organizers of this protest demand “transparency” and “full access” to the child migrants, to ensure they are receiving everything they need.

A Long Beach native and MBA Senior, Daniela Duarte remarks, “I think it’s a good idea to have them in a safe location–away from their previous, poor living conditions, but I think if they are taking some migrant children, it’s better to take them all and find a bigger place of refuge.” She adds, “With these kids I feel as though we already know they’re current living conditions and although it may appear as ‘better’, it’s still not home to them.”

In response to this commotion, the mayor of Long Beach announced that the city will work with the federal government to quickly create an online site, where people or groups can sign up to volunteer at the shelter or to make donations. The Long Beach Humanitarian Family Reunification Efforts has already publicly launched a Migrant Support Fund and Volunteer interest form for anyone interested in donating toys, books or money, or even signing up for volunteer opportunities. If you feel inclined to help out, you’re more than welcomed to click on the hyperlinks issued above for more detailed information. Until then, city officials will be working hard to reunite these children refugees with identified relatives and/or sponsors.