SAN YSIDRO, Calif. (KABC) -- After visiting the San Ysidro Port of Entry and meeting with government officials, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla hosted a roundtable with nonprofit groups providing humanitarian relief in the region.
Jewish Family Service of San Diego operates the SDRRN migrant shelter services travel center where the meeting was hosted. The organization also operates an overnight shelter and provides legal services.
"Coming together to share out the perspective that we continue to live out every single day in the borderlands," said Kate Cark, senior director of immigration services at the Jewish Family Service of San Diego. "Happy to engage with the Senator and work alongside him to ensure that we are again, working towards a more humane asylum system in the United States."
During the roundtable discussion, coalition members expressed immediate concerns to Senator Padilla, like the ongoing separation of families in the U.S. immigration system.
"I'll be honest, the current state of play is bleak, right? We are just over 18 months into the current administration, yet we have heinous policies like Title 42, continuing to be a reality every single day," said Clark.
Padilla is often described as a champion of immigrants' rights. His first Senate bill proposed a pathway to citizenship for essential workers.
"Our hope is that he continues that work and continues to bring this experience, our experiences back with him to D.C.," said Guerline Jozef, founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.
"There's both short-term and long-term issues that obviously need to be addressed," Padilla told Eyewitness News.
Long-term solutions include modernizing U.S. immigration laws, while short-term solutions involve ending policies like MPP also known as "Remain in Mexico" and Title 42-both measures were first implemented under the Trump administration. The latter remains in litigation, while MPP is being partly unwound. Both impact or prevent people's ability to seek asylum.
"We need to restore not just security but humanity and dignity to the immigration process," said Padilla. "That includes the asylum system. It is legal to come to United States to seek asylum. It's not always immediately guaranteed, but it is not unlawful to seek asylum."
Padilla wields power as Chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, which has oversight of agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. Advocates are calling for an investment in infrastructure for programs like the family reunification task force.
"Really casting a wider net of allowing that task force to look into family separation incidents that either recently happened or are occurring today," said Clark.
Others pointed out the importance of placing people's humanity at the center of discussions in Congress.
"Whether from Ukraine or from Haiti or from Mexico or from Honduras, people looking for life, people looking for survival," said Jozef.
Padilla stressed the work of these organizations serves as a model for the state and the country.
"No state has more at stake in this than the state of California given the size and diversity of our population, but also our economy," he said. "We know that immigrants contribute to the success and the security of our nation."
Padilla also visited the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry Project, and toured the Otay Mesa detention center during his visit.