San Francisco supervisors voted unanimously last week to fund relief efforts for migrant children, reacting to an influx of Central American youths that has increased dramatically this year.
Supervisors told the San Francisco Chronicle that they had not yet decided the specifics of how the funding would be spent, but they were looking into the possibilities of mental health services, housing and legal representation.
The flood of undocumented minors has become a national issue, with more than 52,000 migrant children detained at the border by the Department of Homeland Security since last October — double last year’s number, according to the New York Times.
Supervisor David Campos, who lived in Guatemala until he crossed the border into San Diego at age 14, sponsored the legislation. Campos fled the Guatemalan civil war with his mother and two younger sisters to join his father in California.
Campos told the Chronicle:
“It’s important for San Francisco to have a say in this debate. … It’s a voice of reason and a voice of compassion.”
Some attribute the surge of children to economic decline and violence in Central American countries. San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the city with the world’s highest homicide rate, is also the city that has sent the highest number of minors to the U.S. in recent years.
Others say that a 2008 anti-trafficking law preventing undocumented Central American minors from being immediately deported has encouraged movement across the border.
Mayor Ed Lee supported the funding, but rejected the Health and Human Services Department’s request to place a shelter in San Francisco for migrant minors, citing a lack of space.