ACLU Statement on Escondido City Council Vote to Reject Youth Facility


The following statement can be attributed to the San Diego ACLU’s executive director, Norma Chavez-Peterson:

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is extremely disappointed—though not surprised—by last night’s decision by the Escondido City Council.

By refusing to accept the opening of a legal, humane, and safe housing center for immigrant youth, the City Council majority added another link to the chain of civil and human rights violations holding Escondido back from growing into the great city it could become.

Scores of Escondido residents carried signs and spoke in favor of the center, addressing the counterfeit land use arguments point by point, as did our detailed presentation to the City Council. The Planning Commission’s and now the City Council’s rejection of the facility because of alleged “noise, parking, traffic, and security concerns” is disingenuous, unsubstantiated, and, we believe, illegal.  Many of the speakers who opposed the facility cited unfounded fears, not facts substantiated by the evidence.  Rejecting the ACLU’s call to listen to facts and act with compassion, the Council majority buckled to xenophobic fears and turned its back on this country’s core values of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity.

The proposed housing is for children fleeing violence, where they can be safe and secure while they wait to have their day in court.  It is a temporary home while our government follows the laws and guarantees due process. It provides a humanitarian refuge until the children can be reunited with their families or given other appropriate care while an immigration judge has a chance to hear their case. The children report a deep-seated fear of returning to their home countries because of sharp rises in the numbers of murders, rape, violence against women, kidnappings, extortion, gang recruitment, and other conditions fueled by political instability and the growing dominance of local and transnational gangs.

These children deserve to be treated humanely in a safe environment.

And not insignificantly, the proposed facility will help Escondido. Similar facilities have benefited the local economies in Lemon Grove and El Cajon. This one would add more than 100 jobs and millions of dollars in new money into the economy. How many communities would so casually turn down something that has a humanitarian upside and such a strong economic benefit?

The ACLU will not be letting Escondido off the hook and will consider every option on the table, including litigation if necessary.