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Homeland Security in Talks to Use Fresno Convention Center for Migrant Children



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City councilman Nelson Esparza is offering the Fresno Convention Center to house migrant children arriving at the southern border.

And, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Wednesday that he wants to discuss the idea.

“There’s a humanitarian crisis on the border. If we can be of assistance, we’re happy to be of assistance,” said Esparza.

Photo of Nelson Esparza

“There’s a humanitarian crisis on the border. If we can be of assistance, we’re happy to be of assistance.”Fresno City Councilman Nelson Esparza

In April 2020, the National Guard delivered and set up about 250 beds inside the convention center during the early stages of the pandemic. Fresno County leaders were looking at the possibility of opening an alternate care site there because of a surge of patients coming into area hospitals. It never opened to patients, but the beds, medical equipment, and electrical power outlets remain in place.

“We currently have hospital beds in that facility that were never used,” Fresno City Council Member Miguel Arias tells GVWire. “Every indication we’ve had from the Board of Supervisors is that they have no intention of using the convention center backup hospital at all.”

Arias says making the center available to Homeland Security is a way Fresno can thank the federal government for its pandemic support.

Paying For the Site

A letter Esparza sent to DHS on Tuesday doesn’t offer specifics on the potential arrangement.

“Right now, there are no details,” says Esparza. He says this is just in the very beginning stages. “All that’s happened right now is an offer’s been put out there saying, ‘Hey, Fresno is a welcoming city and we want to help alleviate this humanitarian crisis at the border.’ ”

Arias says the arrangement would work similarly to providing a building to FEMA in a crisis.

“We make the facility available and the federal government takes care of everything else,” says Arias. “They take care of the support services, the management, and the operations of it.”

Other California Cities

Portrait of Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias

“At the very least, we don’t need the convention center until June at the minimum.”Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias

On April 6, the Long Beach City Council unanimously approved negotiating a partnership with HHS to temporarily house and quickly reconnect unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border.

KTLA-Television reports Long Beach is temporarily housing up to 1,000 unaccompanied minors at its convention center, and the children will begin arriving this week.

Unaccompanied migrant children will also receive temporary housing at the Pomona Fairplex in Los Angeles County.

The San Diego Convention Center is a temporary facility for teenage girls through mid-July.

Length of Stay

GVWire asked Arias how long he thought any arriving children would stay in Fresno.

“At the very least, we don’t need the convention center until June at the minimum,” responded Arias. He says the city is talking about selling some of the center’s assets that may not have a use moving forward.

Arias also says he is concerned about the cramped conditions children face in Texas.

“The conditions that we’ve seen in other facilities convinced me that we have to step forward and make ourselves available to help relieve some of those conditions,” said Arias. “The only way you alleviate those conditions of overcrowding is to open more facilities.”

Copy of Fresno’s Letter to DHS