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#WeCanWelcome: Meet Nathan Fletcher, A Local Official Welcoming Asylum Seekers in San Diego, CA

03/18/21

Nathan Fletcher is chair of the San Diego Country Board of Supervisors, a Marine Corps veteran, and a father of five. Two years ago, he also was a driving force behind the creation of a shelter for asylum seekers in his district. Since then, support for welcoming policies towards those seeking protection at the border has only grown in San Diego. 

Fletcher was elected to the Board of Supervisors just after the Department of Homeland Security ended the “safe release” program. Previously, DHS officials assisted asylum seekers who had recently crossed the border with the coordination of their travel plans to sponsors and relatives across the country. But beginning in late 2018, DHS began instead to release people directly to bus stations—and in some cases city streets—at all hours and sometimes without notice to local officials and organizations. Further, DHS often gave these asylum seekers unclear paperwork about where and when they were supposed to go to immigration court, adding further confusion. 

As Fletcher took office, DHS was stranding asylum-seeking families in downtown San Diego with no information or resources. The San Diego Rapid Response Network, a coalition of human rights and service organizations, attorneys, and community leaders, stepped in to help by creating temporary emergency shelters in churches. But it wasn’t enough. 

“The advocates and the allies…looked to the County,” Fletcher said. “On my very first day as a supervisor, we heard the idea to actually take a County facility, an old family courthouse that was slated for demolition” and create a reception center for asylum seekers.  READ MORE.