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ACLU appeals denial of shelter for illegal kids

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POSTED August 1, 2014 10:34 p.m.

ESCONDIDO (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union on Friday appealed a San Diego suburb’s decision to reject a shelter for unaccompanied children arrested by the Border Patrol.

The Escondido City Council will now consider the 96-bed shelter after the city planning commission denied a permit.

The proposal has sparked the latest controversy over immigration in the city of 150,000 people that has been rocked during the past decade by disagreement over how to treat people who are in the country illegally.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties represents Southwest Key Programs, a nonprofit group that operates shelters for child immigrants across the country, including a temporary facility at Naval Base Ventura County, north of Los Angeles.

More than 57,000 unaccompanied children were arrested by the Border Patrol from October through June, the vast majority from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services places children in shelters until they are released to sponsors, often their parents. They remain in deportation proceedings while out of government custody.

The ACLU said the Escondido shelter would have the same number of residents and similar services as a nursing home that occupied the building until it closed in August 2013. It argues that concerns about parking, noise, traffic, public safety and impact on schools and parks are based on incorrect assumptions or can be easily addressed.

“The Escondido Planning Commission got it wrong on every count; none of its findings are substantiated by the facts,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

Mayor Sam Abed, who has been an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Joyce Masterson, the city’s director of economic development and community relations, said no one from the city was available to comment.

The City Council generally has 30 days to consider an appeal.

Escondido, where the population is about half Latino, has repeatedly embroiled itself in immigration debates since 2006, when the City Council voted to require landlords to check tenants’ immigration status. A federal judge blocked the ordinance, which never took effect.

 

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