As more people than ever before are displaced around the world, governments and communities have the opportunity—and obligation—to ensure the safe, humane, and sustainable reception of people seeking safety in the United States. Rather than rely on punitive, expensive, and ineffective border policies like asylum bans or mass detention, humanitarian services that safely and efficiently welcome and process people who have recently arrived already exist in places like San Diego, California.
This blueprint for humanitarian reception was developed in partnership with the Women’s Refugee Commission and the Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFSSD). It grew out of the San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) Migrant Shelter Services, operated by JFSSD, when in fall 2018 the Trump administration ended the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) policy of safe release—the long-held travel protocol to facilitate asylum seekers’ ability to safely reach their final destinations. This forced migrants, including families with young children, to fend for themselves after being dropped off by DHS officials at random times and locations. SDRRN’s reception of people seeking asylum at its respite shelter network serves as a road map for how governments and communities across the US can build upon the experiences and lessons learned from the model in San Diego.