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'About $200K More': Increase In Border Crossings Costing Riverside County

MURRIETA (CBSLA) — The U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta has seen big protests over asylum seekers in the past, alleging the government's handling of the issue is "irresponsible."

Asylum Seekers Galilee Center
The Galilee Center, a Coachella Valley-based center, is the main nonprofit in the region sheltering asylum seekers who test negative for COVID-19. (Source: Galilee Center)

It's an argument that's once again being made as migrant families seeking asylum are being cared for in Riverside County in wake of an increase of people crossing the border.

"It's crazy," Kelly Morehart, a Southland resident, said. "I think it's grossly irresponsible."

Morehart said the government should focus on fixing the country's coronavirus-ravaged economy first.

"I don't even know how they can even afford it," she said. "Are they just gonna print up more money?"

At the moment, the cost falls to Riverside County.

"Our resources are strained," Brooke Federico, spokesperson for the county, said. "And it's not just the financial cost, but the available hotel space."

Federico said Border Patrol handed over 171 asylum seekers to Riverside County in the month of March. She said Border Patrol processes hundreds of people at its stations in Murrieta and Blythe, before calling the county to have them picked up, test them for COVID-19 and secure hotel rooms for those who test positive or who were exposed so they can isolate.

"In 2019, it was about $75,000 a month," she said. "And, so far, for the month of March, we can say it was about $270,000. So it is about $200,000 more this time."

Federico said the county has reached out to the federal government, which said most of the county's costs would eventually be reimbursed.

"Just the change in administration opened the channels of hope again for them," Claudia Castorena, co-founder of the Galilee Center, said.

The Coachella Valley-based center is the main nonprofit in the region sheltering asylum seekers who test negative for COVID-19. She said the only stay in the county for a few days with a temporary permit before being connected with sponsors across the nation.

Castorena also said it was important for Americans to understand that the families are asking for help.

"To be in a safe place, to escape violence or extreme poverty," she said. "I mean, anybody, any parent would do it for their children. Why wouldn't these people?"

And while Morehart said she has compassion for the families, she said she worried about the safety of the children.

"Children, just children, unaccompanied," she said. "And the problem is, is that it's endangering them on the way up here."

CBS Los Angeles reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but did not hear back.

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