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City/Feds Don't Allow Reporters' Access To Convention Ctr Areas Where Migrant Minors To Be Housed But Give Tour To Electeds And Supportive Groups; City Offers Pooled Photos + Text By So Cal News Group (PT/Gazettes Operator)

Asked About Cost, Fed HHS Official Has No Numbers But Promises Info To Follow



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(April 23, 2021) -- A City of Long Beach press event (April 22) didn't allow reporters' access to LB Convention Center areas that will house migrant minors, but gave elected officials and City-selected supportive groups a tour of those areas, offering reporters pooled photos and text from two reporters and a photographer from the Southern CA News Group (chain that includes PressTelegram and Gazettes.)

Following their tour, Mayor Robert Garcia conducted a news conference that offered his description of the facilities, joined by Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D, LB-west OC) plus three City-chosen supportive individuals. The press conference speakers said their priority is caring for the children. They described the facilities as welcoming and loving. One of the CIty-chosen touring individuals praised a butterfly image she said made the facilities more welcoming to the children, Mayor Garcia stressed that the temporary housing's goal is to ensure speedy reunificaion of `migrant children with their parents or with other sponsors to enable the childrens' release from the facility.


Butterfly image is projected on wall in distance. Brittany Murray SCNG pooled photo.


Brittany Murray SCNG pooled photo.


Brittany Murray SCNG pooled photo.


Brittany Murray SCNG pooled photo.

Which LB elected officials allowed to tour the facilities can you identify in the photos below?


A federal HHS official addresses local electeds and City chosen individuals on the tour. Reporters (other than pool) weren't present so we don't know what she said and what the electeds may or may not have asked her. Brittany Murray SCNG pooled photo


Brittany Murray SCNG pooled photo.

[Scroll down for further.] .









150 migrant minors were slated to arrive later in the day (not present yet) and a City release said media access won't be permitted when they do arrive. "To protect the identity and well being of the children staying at the shelter, all of whom are minors under the age of 18, public access, including media access, is not permitted...Once the children arrive, for their security and privacy, general public tours will not be allowed."

Sponsor

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The City release indicated children at the shelter will be under the care/custody of the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS.) On arrival, a youth care worker will be assigned to supervise their care and other staff "will provide health and medical care, case management services to ensure reunification with a relative or verified sponsor, mental health counseling, and educational services." "Most children are expected to stay at the HHS shelter between 7 to 10 days while HHS facilitates the reunification process," the release said.

Sponsor

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[City release text] The facilities are located throughout the Convention Center exhibition halls, meeting rooms and ballrooms, with most accommodations located inside and one safe and secure recreational area outside. The living accommodations are divided into sections and are designed to be as comfortable and comforting for the children as possible. Children will receive a variety of essential services and access to amenities including:
  • Medical services equipped for routine pediatric exams and emergency services, if needed.
  • Meals three times a day and snacks.
  • Hygiene amenities including indoor and outdoor restrooms, personal hygiene kits and private shower facilities.
  • Sleeping quarters including designated, age-appropriate bedding, sheets, blankets and pillows.
  • Educational services in designated classrooms, including four hours of structured education each day, access to a variety of donated books in both English and Spanish, arts and crafts, and individual learning activities. Bilingual signage, staff and translation services.
  • Clothing will be provided to each child, which they may keep once they leave the shelter, including shorts, pants, shirts, jackets, undergarments and shoes. Laundry services will also be provided.
  • Indoor recreation, including an expansive indoor area with access to TVs, video games, board games and lounge areas. The indoor recreation area also opens up to the outdoor area, creating an open and inviting atmosphere for the children.
  • Unlimited outdoor recreation including guided physical activities and access to a variety of sporting equipment for small group and individual play.
  • International telephone services to call a family member, relative or friend.
  • Legal representation and services will be aavailable onsite.
  • All arriving children will be tested for COVID-19 prior to their intake to the shelter and will be required to be tested every three days for the duration of their stay. The shelter is equipped with a separate wing to house children who test positive. Most HHS shelter staff will be vaccinated. Staff will also be tested regularly to ensure the health and safety of everyone.

    Sponsor


    Asked by an LA Times reporter during the press conference for [paraphrase] the cost of the operation, an HHS official said she didn't have the figure at hand but promised she would obtain it and provide it. Mayor Garcia reiterated that all costs would be covered by federal agencies.

    It's not immediately clear why reporters were restricted to pooled coverage of the Convention Center facilities., Critics of the Trump administration charged it was putting children in "cages" but when the Biden administration initially faced a surge of migrant minors, independent reporters revealed continuing similar practices. Stung by the whistle-blowing reports, the Biden administration scrambled to make changes (pool reporters saw no Convention Center "cages.") However politically progressive groups (locally including Long Beach Forward locally) have publicly criticized curent policies that result in the de facto custody/incarceration of migrant minors. While supporting the tempoprary use of the Convention Center (slated to expire on Aug. 2 to allow return of Convention Center business), Mayor Garcia straddled the issue by saying the current immigrant system is broken and requires changes.

    Below is pooled text filed by Nathaniel Percy and Hayley Munguia of the Southern California News Group:

    ...The first group of migrant children will likely arrive at the Long Beach Convention Center on Thursday, April 22, making it the second of three shelters for immigrant minors to come online in Southern California amid an ongoing migrant crisis at the southern border.

    The center will house about 1,000 migrant children, mostly young girls ages 5 and up. That may include pairs or groups of siblings, but the facility will not be used specifically for siblings found at the border together, as city officials stated earlier this month.

    The first group to arrive will be relatively small — about 12 children — and they will first receive health screenings for communicable diseases and allergies, among other potential concerns, said Cmdr. Nick Munoz of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. In all, 30 children should arrive by the end of the day Thursday, said Bonnie Preston, acting regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Region 9.

    Munoz’s and Preston’s comments came during a tour of the Convention Center Thursday morning, during which local elected officials got a glimpse at how the facility is set up to accommodate the children.

    Yet, officials are still wrapping up construction and final preparations at the center.

    A migrant shelter in San Diego is currently operating for about 500 teen girls. A third shelter is expected to eventually come on in Pomona.

    In Long Beach, 12 doctors from UCLA were expected to arrive at noon to provide the health screenings, Munoz said, and his federal agency also has a nine-person team on hand.

    How many people will staff the Convention Center in total wasn’t immediately known.

    The center, though, is set up to accommodate all of the children’s needs.

    Conference rooms will be used as classrooms, with cohorts of 30 children receiving lessons together. The children would get at least three hours of lessons per day, Preston said.

    In Exhibit Hall B, pods of 30 cots each had been set up, separated by beige curtains. In one pod, the cots had been made up with white sheets, a pillow and a folded blanket. Some of the cots had books on them, as well as school supplies and backpacks — and two pairs of shoes underneath.

    Toward the end of the hall, there was a lounge area with several sofas and tables. Toward the north end, there there rows of dining tables and chairs.

    Projectors displayed pink butterflies onto the north wall.

    "We want to make the area warm and welcoming for the children," said Charlie Beirne, general manager of the Convention Center. "They’re coming in through some traumatic experiences."

    The recreation area, on large grey carpets, included soccer nets, two large Jenga sets and boards for beanbag toss. Two big screens accommodated both movies and video games, while tables covered with snacks sat across the hall.

    Outside that hall, a recreation area was being outfitted with turf, allowing the children to have time to play outdoors, Garcia said. That area also included trailers with showers, with a not-yet determined schedule of how many times a week the children will bathe.

    The children will have multiple hours of recreation time set aside per day, Preston said.

    As they arrive, the children will be grouped in pods of 30, each led by a staff member who will guide them during various scheduled activities each day, Preston said.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was set to provide advisors for mask-wearing for the youth, Preston said.

    The City Council earlier this month OK’d letting the federal government use the Convention Center as a temporary shelter for kids found at the southern border without a parent.

    Kids will arrive at the shelter with plans already in place to unify them with a family member or sponsor in the United States.

    The Convention Center has legally not been able to hold events for the last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that’s set to change this fall. City officials have said the shelter will close Aug. 2 at the latest, which will allow conventions that have already been planned to move forward.

    The mass vaccination site in the Convention Center parking lot will also not be impacted by the shelter’s operations.

    The federal government’s request to use the site as a temporary shelter came amid a surge of unaccompanied minors, fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, have sought to cross the southern border. Border authorities encountered nearly 19,000 children without a parent last month, an all-time monthly high.

    With the facility sitting vacant, city officials have said using the site for a humanitarian cause was an easy decision to make.

    "Long Beach has a proud and long history of welcoming and helping immigrants and refugees,"Garcia said in a statement earlier this month. "From our Cambodian community to the work done by our churches and faith organizations, we have led with compassion and kindness."

    Long Beach became home to the largest concentration of Cambodians outside the country itself after thousands sought refuge from genocide in their homeland in the 1970s and ’80s. And housing immigrant children in need, he said, is an extension of that legacy.

    "As an immigrant," Garcia said, "I know how important it is to support all people, especially children — and I am proud to support our country in this important work."


    Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.


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