LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — The Long Beach City Council Tuesday unanimously voted to allow the federal government to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children at the convention center.

The shelter will provide housing, food, schooling and medical and mental healthcare for up to 1,000 migrant children at a time for up to three months. The children will only be housed at the convention center until they can be united with already identified family members or sponsors.

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“The key component of this, which we all understand, is that this is temporary,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who backed the plan, said. “There is a firm Aug. 2 date that the contract will end, and that it’s important for us that this is focused on family reunification.”

Garcia said the request for help from the White House and the federal government was a moral obligation, pointing to the overflow of children at the border.

“We have a massive humanitarian challenge that is happening across the border,” he said. “And we also know 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 at no fault of their own need our help.”

Residents who called into the meeting to give public comment said they were proud of Long Beach for stepping up.

“They’re coming up from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua,” Vivian Malauulu, a Long Beach resident, said. “They’re making their way through Mexico, they finally get here and they’re stuck in a cage and then they’re separated from their parents and their parents are being sent away.

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“So, I’m really proud of my city,” she said. “I’m really proud of Long Beach for stepping up to this challenge.”

In a tweet following the vote, Garcia thanked the council for allowing the facility to be used to house the children.

 

The shelter, which will be fully funded by the federal government, could open by next week. Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna said federal agents would handle security at the facility, though he said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not be part of that team.

Officials said the shelter will not interfere with the nearby COVID-19 vaccine super site.

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Last month alone, Border Patrol took custody of 19,000 children who arrived without parents or guardians.