Asylum seekers wait at the US-Mexico border in San Ysidro on May 9, 2023.
Asylum seekers wait at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Ysidro on May 9, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Local officials are bracing for an influx of migrants as the federal government’s order under Title 42 expires on Thursday. But what it all means is still anyone’s guess. 

The order allowed border authorities to turn away asylum seekers during the pandemic. Now, the president is lifting emergency orders related to the pandemic including this one. Thousands of people may cross seeking asylum and not be able to move on to their destinations immediately, straining local shelters.

The city of San Diego put together a “toolkit” for shelter providers to distribute, which includes a list of service providers, but is otherwise looking to the county to take the lead. 

The county said it’s coordinating with state, federal and local agencies and organizations while advocating for more funding. 

Strain on emergency services: UC San Diego Health is preparing for a possible influx of patients, according to an email sent to staff. The hospital system is under a “Code Orange” alert, which is to say hospital management expects an increase in patients that could put a strain on resources.

Asylum seekers from various countries wait at the US-Mexico border in San Ysidro on May 8, 2023.
Asylum seekers from various countries wait at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Ysidro on May 8, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Shelter space is the immediate issue: Last week, the county told us it had prepared a list of unused and underused properties that may be used to build out shelter infrastructure. When shelters have reached capacity in the past, federal authorities have dropped off hundreds of people on the streets. 

“That’s what we don’t want to happen,” said Vino Pajanor, CEO of Catholic Charities of San Diego, which runs three shelters totaling 1,500 beds and is the fiscal sponsor for other groups. 

Money finally coming: FEMA awarded $33 million to Catholic Charities to support migrants in need of food, shelter and other services while awaiting immigration court proceedings. Pajanor reiterated, as he also told KPBS earlier in the week, he’s still in the dark because the feds haven’t given local nonprofits any idea of how many migrants will be allowed to enter. 

“Nobody knows exactly whether the surge is going to happen, or what the level of the surge is going to be,” he said.

Border patrol selects a group of men who are asylum seekers and moves them to a different section along the US-Mexico border wall in San Ysidro on May 9, 2023.
Border patrol selects a group of men who are asylum seekers and moves them to a different section along the U.S.-Mexico border wall in San Ysidro on May 9, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

East County took a shot: El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells said he’s expecting 1,000 people to cross over the border each day, a quarter of which are likely to be dropped off at a light rail station in his city, which is already home to a large refugee population. 

“I am concerned that without Federal intervention, our current crisis, which takes our resources to an extreme level, will precipitate a full crisis,” he wrote in an open letter to federal authorities. 

Supervisor Joel Anderson, in the meantime, said he’s grateful for the FEMA funding but also urged federal officials to do more. He called on FEMA “to ensure we have enough shelter space for the incoming surge of migrants and avoid federally-sponsored homelessness,” in a statement. 

Looking ahead: The Union-Tribune warned that, while the Title 42 order is lifting, it’ll have a longer imprint on the asylum process. The federal government plans, the newspaper reported, to still restrict asylum eligibility and ramp up speedy deportations.

The Two Popes of San Diego Soccer

San Diegans have been told a Major League Soccer franchise is around the corner for decades. But Charlie Brown may finally be kicking that ball.

Representatives from SDSU (whose Snapdragon Stadium could host a team), the investment partners (which includes the Sycuan tribe and an investment group helmed by an Egyptian billionaire) and MLS officials are set to meet in San Diego this week. The U-T reported that an announcement of a deal could come later this month. The partners may have to pay an expansion fee of as much as $500 million.

How it works: People don’t own MLS teams. They pay the fee to own a piece of the MLS itself, a company.

Not so loyal: The news seems to have left out San Diego’s existing professional soccer team, San Diego Loyal Soccer Club, which plays in the USL, the United Soccer League. The USL is the Division II league, the lower level below MLS. It’s long been speculated Loyal’s leadership hoped to eventually buy into the MLS and promote the team to that level.

The new investment group appears to not be interested in partnering with Loyal, however. And that has left some local soccer fans pretty salty.

MLS is undoubtedly exciting to soccer fans but some have spent a lot of time building a community around Loyal.

“They’ve spent the last 4+ years of their lives dedicated to San Diego Loyal and you’ll have to give them some reason that they’re gonna leave the club that they’ve really fallen in love with,” said Darren Smith, a sports talk show host with San Diego Sports 760.

This isn’t Europe: In other parts of the world, soccer teams can move into higher leagues by performing well. But USL teams can’t move into the MLS. It has happened before, but only after major investments.  

A statement tweeted out on Wednesday by the Loyal seems to confirm that dream is in jeopardy. “We have become aware of an independent ownership group that intends to launch their own club in San Diego,” the tweet read, referencing the investment group in talks with the MLS. 

Still, as the name would suggest, the team wrote that that isn’t giving up on San Diego. “Our unwavering commitment is to the vision of growing soccer in this city … We aren’t going anywhere.”

The Learning Curve: What’s Changed with Area Supes

Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District Dr. Lamont A. Jackson waves to students in a classroom at Spreckels Elementary school in University City on April 24, 2023.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Lamont Jackson waves to students in a classroom at Spreckels Elementary School on April 24, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Community stakeholders were blindsided by a plan to get rid of San Diego Unified’s area superintendents and hire new ones. The district argued that the job descriptions changed to such a degree that a new hiring process needed to be kicked off.

But for some, the actual text of the new job description seemed to indicate the changes were more aesthetic than functional. 

Jakob McWhinney spoke with Deputy Superintendent Fabiola Bagula to try to pin down exactly what the difference is.

She said the area superintendents will be given resource teachers to help them engage with school sites and they will be required to function more as a complete unit rather than operate in isolation. 

Plus UCSD’s Chancellor Gets a Very Unceremonious Award: Amid disagreements about the specifics of a new contract for UC San Diego’s graduate workers, students rushed the stage at a recent alumni event. As part of the protest, they gave Chancellor Pradeep Khosla a cardboard plaque that read “the most overpaid worker.”

Read all about it in the latest The Learning Curve.

In Other News 

  • Reports of crime are down across the region while violent crime specifically, fueled by robberies, are up. Even so, a recent San Diego Association of Governments assessment shows that the county continues to have one of the lowest violent crime rates among major U.S. metros. (Union-Tribune)  
  • San Diego congresswoman Sara Jacobs was selected to serve on the 50-person Biden-Harris re-election advisory board. (City News Service)
  • A San Diego County grand jury has determined that the region is not doing enough to build new housing. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and Jakob McWhinney. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Scott Lewis. 

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