Los Angeles Times (California)
By Tony Perry
October 16, 2014
Amid passionate disagreements among residents, the Escondido City Council voted Wednesday night to reject a proposed 96-bed shelter for children who enter the U.S. without documentation and are not accompanied by an adult.
The ACLU had appealed the city planning commission's unanimous rejection in August of the proposal by Southwest Key, a federal government contractor that runs shelters in dozens of locations across the U.S.
The company had requested permission to remodel a closed nursing home to accommodate the children. But the council voted, 4-1, to uphold the rejection, citing the same reasons as the planning commission: potential problems with traffic, safety and parking, as well as concerns that a shelter would be "incompatible" with a residential neighborhood.
The volatile issue arose this summer as thousands of children were caught illegally crossing the U.S. border, mostly in Texas.
The majority of the 100-plus residents who packed City Council chambers were strongly opposed to the shelter proposal, but some said the council's action was based not on compatibility concerns, but on opposition to having additional immigrants in the inland San Diego County suburb, 40 miles north of San Diego.
There was also resentment aimed at the ACLU for its involvement in what residents saw as a local planning issue. The ACLU has tussled with Escondido officials in the past over issues linked to immigration.
Mayor Sam Abed said the ACLU had a history of hostility toward Escondido, but council members "are not going to be intimidated."
Councilwoman Olga Diaz was the lone vote in favor of the shelter proposal, which would be funded by the federal government.
"I may lose an election, but I will not lose my humanity," she said.
Diaz is running for mayor against Abed.
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