California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom said Thursday the state must do more to address what he called a "humanitarian crisis" at the border with Mexico.
Newsom said he planned to discuss the large caravans of Central American migrants when he attends Mexico's President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's inauguration on Saturday.
A tour of Otay Mesa Immigration Detention Center and a temporary shelter for asylum seekers in San Diego drove home the need for California to invest more money, Newsom said. He said local and federal governments will also have to do more.
"We can't do everything ourselves but I know we're capable of doing more," Newsom said at a news conference at the San Ysidro Civic Center, a short distance from where migrants in the caravan clashed Sunday with U.S. authorities.
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Newsom's remarks hint at a more active role in border and immigration affairs than outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown, also a Democrat, who supported limits on cooperation with federal deportation agents but joined President Donald Trump's mission to deploy the National Guard to the border on condition that troops have nothing to do with immigration enforcement.
More than 6,000 migrants are across the border from San Diego in Tijuana, Mexico, packed into a sports complex with space adequate for half that many people and where lice infestations and respiratory infections are rampant. Many want to seek asylum in the United States, but inspectors at the San Ysidro border crossing are processing about 100 claims a day, meaning they will likely have to wait weeks or months.
Kate Clark, an immigration attorney at Jewish Family Service of San Diego, said since October the temporary shelter has housed more than 1,500 asylum seekers who are released by immigration authorities pending the outcome of their cases in immigration court. On Wednesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released nearly 100 people, bringing the number of migrants currently staying at the shelter to 178.
"We are responding to this crisis in real time," Newsom said.
Newsom reiterated his intent to withdraw the California National Guard from Trump's border mission but cautioned that conditions may change. An agreement with the federal government expires March 31.
"I have every desire to pull those Guardsmen back and assist in other capacities," he said.