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Migrant Children Begin Arriving At Long Beach Shelter Thursday

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Dozens of migrant children began to arrive in Long Beach Thursday evening, where they are being housed at the city's convention center.

Long Beach Convention Center
A concourse is seen inside the Long Beach Convention Center on April 7, 2021 in Long Beach, California. - The Long Beach mayor tweeted that the city council approved a proposal to temporally lease the center to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a plan to shelter unaccompanied migrant children. The convention center parking lot is also part of a Covid-19 vaccination site. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

In a news conference Thursday morning, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia confirmed that the children would begin arriving within hours. About 150 children were expected to arrive in the first group Thursday night.

The shelter will house boys under the age of 12 and girls under 17.

"Sometime later today there will be children arriving here at the center," Garcia said. "We know that the mission of this center here in Long Beach is quick family reunification. The reunifications should be done as fast as possible. And we also know that the space that we are in is temporary."

The Long Beach City Council earlier this month unanimously approved a plan to house as many as 1,000 migrant children for about three months until they can be reunited with family members or sponsors. Food, schooling, health care and mental healthcare will also be provided.

"Every child that arrives here, will have of course have three meals a day, multiple snacks," Garcia said. "Every child that arrives here will have classroom time, three to four hours of classroom time, with teachers, every single day."

Migrant Children Begin Arriving At Long Beach Shelter Thursday
A look at where migrant children will be staying at the Long Beach Convention Center. April 22, 2021. (CBSLA)

The shelter will have a full-size medical clinic operated by UCLA. The shelter will be fully operated and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement. The city's contract with HHS runs through Aug. 1.

"I had concerns coming but after seeing the space: it's warm, it's welcoming, it's well designed, it's designed for them to actually thrive," said Pastor Gregory Sanders, president of Long Beach Ministers Alliance.

It will also not interfere with the large-scale COVID-19 vaccination site, which is located in the parking lot of the convention center.

The city has created a new online portal where members of the community and local businesses can go if they want to help support the children.

"The children that are coming here are coming straight from the border," Garcia said. "These children have been met at the border, most of the times, with no parents, no adults, they don't have their family with them."

HHS has said its goal is to get children reunited with family members within seven to 10 days.

The Pomona Fairplex will also be used to house migrant children. The Fairplex, home to the Los Angeles County Fair, will be capable of housing up to 2,500 children, mostly between the ages of 12 and 17.

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