California officials are set to spend upwards of $28 million to assist illegal immigrants with their asylum claims, even as thousands of businesses across the state continue to suffer economically under lingering COVID-19 operating restrictions.
“We have been in discussions … with the Biden administration through the Department of Homeland Security about this change in policy on our side of the border and what we are willing to do to help that be as seamless a process as possible,” H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs at the California Department of Finance, told the Sacramento Bee.
Funding comes after President Joe Biden ended former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program which required anyone seeking asylum in the U.S. from Central America and other countries to hole up south of the border until their cases could be adjudicated.
California officials said about $20 million of the total will be provided to the California Department of General Services to fund hotel rooms where migrants will quarantine for seven to 10 days.
Other funds will be dispersed through the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, which will provide migrants with case management assistance, transportation, health care, transportation, and testing for COVID-19.
The Sacramento Bee reported that initially, the Department of Homeland Security will be processing about 25 migrants a day but that number will grow to around 300 a day.
“As President Biden has made clear, the U.S. government is committed to rebuilding a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement in February in announcing Biden’s shift in policy. “This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values.”
Late last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation adding $2.1 billion to the California Relief Grant Program, “which awards direct grants ranging between $5,000 and $25,000 to small businesses” impacted by the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.
Nevertheless, most small businesses in the state simply want to open. Scores have either closed due to perpetual lockdowns and customer limits or are barely hanging on. And their collective plight was highlighted in December by Angela Marsden, owner of the Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill in Sherman Oaks near Los Angeles.
In an emotional video posted online, Marsden blasted new COVID restrictions implemented by Mayor Eric Garcetti forcing restaurants to close even to outdoor dining — after they had spent tens of thousands of dollars each upgrading their establishments to accommodate customers per the rules.
In Marsden’s video, she showed her outdoor dining area, which was empty because she was forced to close it, and then panned her camera over to a much larger outdoor dining area set up about 50 feet away for a movie crew.
“Look at this. Tell me that this is dangerous,” she said tearfully, pointing to her own patio dining area, “but right next to me, as a slap in my face, that’s safe. This is safe? Fifty feet away?”
“I’m losing everything. Everything I own is being taken from me, and they set up a movie company right next to my outdoor patio. Tell me how this is dangerous, but right next to me — as a slap in my face — that’s safe?” Marsden asked.
The outdoor dining ban issued in December by Los Angeles County was eventually blocked by a Superior Court judge who ruled that officials have to present convincing scientific evidence to justify their action.
But Garcetti circumvented the ruling by implementing a new stay-at-home order the same day.
In January, five business owners filed a lawsuit against state officials, including Newsom, over the perpetual COVID restrictions which had been largely lifted by other populous states like Florida.
“There is no science nor data that justifies the blanket closure of all outdoor dining and beauty services,” Harmeet K. Dhillon, managing partner of the Dhillon Law Group, Inc., said in a Friday statement. “While California continues to experience the most restrictive shelter-in-place orders in the country, the highest positive test rate and most deaths, Governor Newsom’s orders are devastating small businesses while not saving lives.”
Others believe that Californians are simply fed up.
“Even though California is largely a very liberal state, I think that there is this trust deficit in which people have stopped listening to certain people,” Tara Kirk Sell, a senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the Intelligencer in December.
“People are feeling like they’ve just had enough, and they wonder if it’s all futile anyway,” Sell added.
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