After meeting with advocates for asylum seekers and visiting an immigration detention center Thursday, Governor-elect Gavin Newsom spoke of the need for greater urgency and support from the state, local and federal governments in addressing the current humanitarian crisis at the border.
“It goes without saying, this moment demands a sense of urgency… this moment demands leadership, not just from the national level, not just from the state level, but substantively from the local level as well,” he said.
Praising California as a “state of refuge” during a news conference in San Ysidro, Newsom said the state should invest more financial support in addressing the challenges and issues related to the thousands of Central American migrants — and U.S. asylum seekers — currently waiting in Tijuana.
The soon-to-be governor also discussed the economic importance of California and Mexico’s relationship on the border, as well as stressed the need depoliticize the issue.
“My job is to be constructive… to try to find ways to bring people to the table and to address what legitimately can be described as a humanitarian crisis,” Newsom said. “We’re all in this together… I think we need to humanize this issue, not politicize the issue.”
Newsom’s address came just hours after he visited the Otay Mesa Immigration Detention Center and met with asylum seeker advocates from several local organizations including Casa Familiar, Jewish Family Service of San Diego and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.
The stop in San Diego also comes just days before Newsom — alongside other members of the California delegation — is scheduled to attend the inauguration of Mexico president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Newsom, who was scheduled to meet with Mexican officials Thursday and Friday, has said he hopes his meetings will help “reaffirm and build upon the deep economic, political and cultural bonds that connect Mexico and California.”
Over the weekend, Newsom was critical of a tear-gassing incident at the border wall — a concern he said he raised directly with aides to President Donald Trump. On Thursday he struck a far softer tone, focusing on the need for groups to work together and not “talk past each other” in tackling the challenges presented by thousands of asylum seekers.
But Newsom and local advocates chastised federal officials for ending a program to help asylum-seeking families reach their final destinations in the U.S. and for not coordinating their release with relatives or service providers while they await a court hearing.
Since the program was ended, the San Diego Rapid Response Network opened a shelter earlier this month to aid migrant families. Newsom was impressed after his visit Thursday.
“The first thing I saw when I walked into the shelter was a beautiful young child, couldn’t of been more than three-years-old, about as innocent a girl as can possibly be in this debate, and if we don’t have that picture in mind then we are not being true to ourselves in this discussion and this debate,” he said. “You can moralize it, you can politicize it, but that young three-year-old is a victim of circumstance and I feel a deep sense of responsibility to help change the course of her life and literally the hundreds of thousands of others that I think need that same kind of empathy and compassion.
“We can’t do everything ourselves, but I know we are capable of doing more,” he added.
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