Venezuelan couple fleeing political persecution finds hope at SoCal migrant shelter

ABC7's Anabel Muñoz takes you inside the San Diego shelter welcoming those fleeing political persecution.

SoCal migrant shelters serve as safe place for those seeking asylum
As humanitarian groups and organizations continue to help those seeking asylum in the U.S., ABC7's Anabel Muñoz takes you inside the San Diego shelter welcoming those fleeing political persecution.
Anabel Munoz Image
Saturday, June 15, 2024

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KABC) -- While thousands of people seeking asylum in the U.S. wait in shelters in Mexico, hundreds who have already been granted the opportunity to begin that process through the CBP One app have found a safe landing place at the San Diego Rapid Response Network migrant shelter.

"It's in those moments that you see tears of joy, you hear, you know, cries of relief," said Kate Clark, the senior director of immigration services for the Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

Escaping political persecution

This week, Eyewitness News met with Jessica and Sandri, who are escaping political persecution in Venezuela.

Jessica described the long and treacherous journey through several countries and through the deadly rainforest region known as the Darién Gap - all while traveling with two young girls, ages 8 and 14.

As humanitarian groups and organizations continue to help those seeking asylum in the U.S., ABC7's Anabel Muñoz takes you inside the San Diego shelter welcoming those fleeing political persecution.

"We don't do it for pleasure," she told ABC7.

She wants people to know they didn't embark on that journey just because. Rather, she feared for her daughters' futures if she was imprisoned for her political activism.

Monika Langarica with the Center for the Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law underscores the complexity of global migration patterns.

"They are influenced by political uprisings in foreign countries, by natural disasters, you know, by the growth of nefarious or criminal organizations in different parts of the world," she explained.

During the 2024 fiscal year from October through January, the highest number of citizenships encountered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection were from Mexico. Encounters are when U.S. officials encounter non-citizens attempting to cross the southwest border of the country without authorization.

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Venezuela is near the top of the list. Other countries include Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, and Peru.

To condition access to asylum in the United States on this very, very complicated ... area of data, is very unjust, and it's unfair
Monika Langarica, Center for the Immigration Law and Policy (CILP)

President Joe Biden's new executive order restricting asylum between ports of entry hinges on a daily average of these encounters.

"To condition access to asylum in the United States on this very, very complicated, sort of, you know, area of data, is very unjust, and it's unfair," said Langarica.

The total number of monthly encounters along the southwest border has slightly decreased since February, when it hit nearly 190,000. This year's monthly totals so far are lower than the high in December 2023, when CBP officials saw almost 302,000 encounters. About 17% of December southwest border encounters were at the San Diego port of entry. There were 179,725 total encounters in April, 32% of which were in San Diego.

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A growing humanitarian effort

The San Diego Rapid Response Network migrant shelter has welcomed roughly 210,000 people over the last five and a half years.

"98% of our guests are actually moving onward, outside of San Diego County to their loved ones and family members in other parts of the United States," said Clark.

Jewish Family Service of San Diego and CILP also lead advocacy efforts, raising awareness about ongoing family separations as people are processed through immigration officials and advocating for the limited detention of those who are pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding.

While Biden's new order is in place and does restrict asylum between ports of entry, the CBP One app -- which has been sharply criticized over its inaccessibility -- remains an avenue for migrants and refugees to seek asylum.