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Pomona Shelter For Unaccompanied Migrant Kids Set To Close Next Month

An image of children running near the US-Mexico border. Their faces are not visible.
Children play as people seeking asylum in the U.S. gather outside the El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana in February.
(Mario Tama
/
Getty Images)
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An emergency intake shelter for unaccompanied child migrants at the Pomona Fairplex will be closing by Nov. 19.

The shelter has housed thousands of children and teens who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border since it opened last spring. So far, more than 8,000 of those children have been reunited with family members or sponsors in the U.S., according to a statement from the office of L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose district includes Pomona.

The Biden administration announced that the last reunifications will happen by Oct. 26, in advance of the shelter ceasing operations.

The emergency shelter opened May 1 with a capacity of 2,500 and has served children between the ages of 5 and 17. It opened along with other emergency shelters — including another local shelter in Long Beach — as growing numbers of unaccompanied minors arrived at the border earlier this year, many of them sent by their families to escape gang violence in Central America.

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The shelter at the Long Beach Convention Center opened last April and closed in July.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services has overseen the shelters. HHS secretary Xavier Becerra, who toured the Pomona shelter last summer, referred to it as a “model” for other intake facilities for unaccompanied migrant youth.

Why The Closures Are Happening

Health and Human Services has been able to close the shelters because “there have been fewer unaccompanied children taken into custody at the border,” those who have arrived have been “quickly” placed with family or sponsors, and there is “increased capacity in the permanent shelter network,” acting HHS regional director Bonnie Preston said in an emailed statement.

According to HHS data, the overall number of unaccompanied minors in the agency’s care declined from a high of 20,339 at the end of April to 16,171 at the end of August.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows, however, that while numbers have leveled off a bit recently, the number of unaccompanied minors encountered along the southern border remains significantly higher than in recent years.

Preston said any remaining children will be taken care of by the agency’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, and that “if there are children who have not been unified with a vetted sponsor when it is time to close [a temporary shelter], they will be relocated to another appropriate facility ... where the case management process will continue.”

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