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A military police officer walks past a Border Patrol vehicle next to the secondary U.S.-Mexico border fence. / Photo by David Maung

Family separations continue at the border – and the confusion surrounding them remains.

Maya Srikrishnan zeroed in on a case involving a 1-year-old girl who crossed near Calexico with her father that highlights the chaos that marks these continued separations.

The girl’s mother has unsuccessfully tried to reunite with her daughter after the girl’s father was taken into custody in late December. The family of five was separated on their way to the United States.

Srikrishnan describes the confusion the Guatemalan mother experienced after crossing the border herself in trying to find out what had happened to the girl and father, as well as the woman’s attempts to try to retrieve her daughter. She told Srikrishnan the government is asking her to pay thousands of dollars in order to reunite with her child.

Speaking of asylum-seekers …

County Makes Moves on Migrant Shelter

County officials have suggested the former San Diego County Superior Court Family Court could be used to temporarily shelter migrants.

The Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to lease the property to nonprofit Jewish Family Service, the lead operator of an existing shelter for asylum-seekers. The lease would end by Dec. 31.

Since late October, asylum-seeking families have been released into San Diego by immigration authorities without having any coordinated plans for how to reach relatives and sponsors elsewhere in the United States, where they will await their asylum proceedings. It’s resulted in anywhere from 60 to 180 people needing shelter each night. A coalition of local service providers and nonprofits has been running a shelter, but are running out of resources and must vacate their current shelter in mid-February.

The city has previously floated a shuttered juvenile detention facility in Alpine as a potential shelter location.

-The Trump administration announced Thursday that it plans to start forcing asylum-seekers to return to Mexico after they pass initial “credible fear” tests on the U.S. side of the border on Friday. The policy was proposed last year, but when and how it would happen were unclear. Many have raised concerns over such a policy, saying Tijuana isn’t safe for many migrants. Two Honduran teens who arrived with a caravan in the fall were murdered late last year.

Meet Brian Maienschein, D-San Diego

Assemblyman Brian Maienschein dropped a bomb Thursday: He’s leaving the Republican Party to become a Democrat. In explaining his decision, he said it wasn’t all about President Donald Trump.

“I too have changed,” Maienschein said in the statement, which reads in part like a declaration of principles. For instance, he said health care should be accessible to everyone; organized labor provides the workforce with protections; women have a right to choose an abortion.

“My reason for serving has never changed,” he said. “I still believe that government should help people.”

In November, Maienschein narrowly defeated Sunday Gover by about 600 votes — out of nearly 200,000 cast. The 76th Assembly District is home about 86,000 Democrats, 83,000 Republicans and 78,000 independents.

Leading up to the election, local progressive organizers were frustrated by the lack of support from San Diego’s leading Democrats, including Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

When Gonzalez appeared on the VOSD podcast after the election, we asked why she didn’t rally the troops against Maienschein. Gonzalez said she can count on him to at least consider crossing the line on important votes. He’s sometimes more reliable than moderate Democrats or Democrats who live in swing districts, she said.

“It’d be completely disingenuous if I went after Brian just simply for being a Republican,” she said, “not because of how I’ve had my interactions with him and how he’s voted.”

San Diego GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric, for his part, wished Maienschein well.

Just kidding, he urged him to “resign immediately, allowing voters to elect someone under honest pretenses.”

Raising Height Limit Near Mid-Coast Trolley: Back On

Last fall, with the election pending, Mayor Kevin Faulconer backed off of a plan to let developers build new projects up to 100 feet tall near a new station on the $2.1 billion Mid-Coast trolley line at the behest of former Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, a fellow Republican. She was running for re-election, and people who lived in the area have vocally protested the city’s proposed change.

It’s been a few months, and Faulconer has changed his mind again. He’s back to proposing the original development regulations near the Tecolote Drive station, as Andrew Keatts reported Thursday.

The city’s goal is to increase the amount of housing and job opportunities along the trolley in hopes of encouraging more people to commute by transit, biking or walking to slash the city’s carbon footprint. The city’s adopted plan for future growth and its climate action plan are both predicated on it.

Faulconer’s latest change brings the plan for the Morena Corridor more in line with the housing proposals he unveiled last week at his State of the City address, which called for waiving all height limits and parking requirements for new development near transit, in hopes of dramatically increasing the amount of housing in the region.

The Learning Curve: Hold Your Comments

If you’d like to weigh in on a San Diego Unified School District issue at a future board meeting, you might want to bring snacks and a good book.

In this week’s Learning Curve, Will Huntsberry reports on a new school board public comment policy that will relegate anyone wishing to speak on an item not on the agenda to the end of that board meeting.

A typical meeting runs from 5 to 9 p.m.

City-Run Utility Moves Ahead, Union Issues Loom

From Ry Rivard: A San Diego City Council committee advanced a plan to form a government-run energy utility, but ducked for now promising that new city-funded energy projects would go to union workers.

Thursday’s vote was the first real look at how the City Council wants to set up the new “community choice” energy agency.

A group of environmentalists, unions and clean energy companies want the city to commit that most of the energy from the new utility would be from local projects built with union labor or workers paid union wages. The group, known as the San Diego Community Choice Alliance, also want assurances that if employees of the new utility want to unionize the city would remain neutral and not try to thwart any attempts at collective bargaining.

The council’s four-member environment committee, made up of one Republican and three Democrats, didn’t take a position on that set of union-friendly proposals, which a representative from the city attorney’s office said could be “legally problematic.” Instead, the committee unanimously told city staff to study various options and sent the matter to the full council to review.

The energy industry is heavily unionized, with most major work for San Diego Gas & Electric done with union labor. A major exception is a wind farm that SDG&E’s parent company, Sempra Energy, built in Mexico. Some unions are concerned non-union projects may become more common now, while other unions see all the new construction as an opportunity.

News Roundup

  • Sherman Heights residents are coming out against the prospect of expanding a homeless storage facility in their neighborhood. A spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer tells Voice of San Diego the city has made no decisions about expanding its offerings for homeless San Diegans who want to store their belongings but does want to offer additional storage space in coming months. (10News)
  • A National City woman is challenging the city’s enforcement of code violations at her home, citing its years-long failure to demand that a city councilman pay fines for code violations. (Union-Tribune)
  • An Encinitas bar is trying to update its city permit after a state crackdown revealed the businesses that sell alcohol in the city need city permission to let customers dance. (NBC San Diego)
  • San Diego welcomed a record 35.8 million tourists last year. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and was edited by Sara Libby.

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