Border Patrol Releases Migrants at a Bus Stop Due to San Diego’s Depleted Aid Funds

The largest city on the nation’s southern border is finding it difficult to handle the unprecedented influx of people, as evidenced by the hundreds of migrants who were dropped off on Friday at a bus stop in San Diego rather than at a reception center that had been acting as a staging area because it ran out of local funding earlier than anticipated.

Migrants who had previously had a safe spot to charge their phones, use the restroom, have a meal, and plan their next move in the United States were now left on the street as migrant aid agencies rushed to make do with improvised arrangements.

Border Patrol buses transporting migrants from Senegal, China, Ecuador, Rwanda, and other nations arrived outside a transit center.

Migrant help organizations stated that they would be bused from there to a parking lot where they could charge their phones and catch a transport to the airport. The great majority intended to spend only a few hours in San Diego before flying or having someone pick them up.

“Are we in San Diego?” said Gabriel Guzman, 30, a Dominican painter who was released after crossing the border in distant highlands on Thursday.

He was scheduled to appear in an immigration court in Boston in June, where he expects to earn enough money to bring home to his three children.

Abd Boudeah, of Mauritania, flew to Tijuana, Mexico, via Nicaragua and followed other migrants to a gap in the border wall, where he surrendered to agents on Thursday after walking for eight hours.

The former molecular engineering student claimed he fled persecution for being gay and intended to settle in Chicago with a cousin who had lived in the United States for 20 years.

“I’ve dreamed about this (moment) a lot, and thank God I’m here,” Boudeah, 23, remarked in perfect English.

Volunteers provided instructions in English, Spanish, and French to small groups of unmarried men and women. They used translation applications for several languages.

“We’re going to cross the street together and line up,” a volunteer stated into his phone, which was subsequently translated into Hindi for a group of Indian guys.

Border Patrol Releases Migrants at a Bus Stop Due to San Diego's Depleted Aid Funds (1)

“Tired from the road,” Alikan Rdiyer, 31, of Kazakhstan, said in Russian as he waited for instructions to deliver to a buddy from Los Angeles who would pick him up. The Border Patrol issued him a summons to appear in immigration court in Philadelphia in August 2025, a city he had never heard of.

The transit center parking area was packed with cars, leaving migrants with nowhere to stand and no public restrooms. A taxi driver offered a ride to San Diego International Airport for $100, which was double what ride-sharing apps charged.

When volunteers were unable to locate some refugees and instructed them to wait on the sidewalk, they dispersed around the area.

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Since October, San Diego County has given $6 million to SBCS, a charity previously known as South Bay Community Services, to provide phone charging stations, food, travel guidance, and other services at a former elementary school.

The company intended to keep it open until March, but Thursday was the last day.

San Diego is one of many municipal governments that have battled to assist migrants while maintaining essential services, including New York, Chicago, and Denver.

Migrants in San Diego, like in other border communities, often stay for less than a day before moving on. Still, big shelters run by Jewish Family Service and Catholic Charities have been filled for months, prioritizing families.

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Nora Vargas, head of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, strongly supported the migrant welcome center but stated that the county needed to suspend expenditure.

At the same time, it assessed the damage from the catastrophic January flooding and addressed homelessness and a shortage of health care among its citizens. “We have to be financially prudent about it,” she went on to say.

SBCS, which has faced harsh criticism from some migrant advocacy groups, informed the county that its services cost $1.4 million per month, according to spokesperson Margie Newman Tsay. The county requested that it aim for $1 million.

“It’s not that funds ran out early, it’s that the funds were stretched as far as they could go,” Newman Tsay said in an interview.

Aid organizations have provided essential assistance to new arrivals, prompting criticism from some quarters.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to sue and close Annunciation House, a decades-old shelter for migrants in El Paso. Paxton stated that the group could be “facilitating illegal entry into the United States.”

Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, held a news conference Friday to protest Paxton’s actions.

“It is a full warning to other entities that also do the work of hospitality that they can very well be next,” he went on to say.

SBCS reported that it had served 81,000 migrants in San Diego since October 11. According to a report to the county, it spent $750,000 on people until December 24 and $152,000 on operations expenses such as lodging, transportation, and security.

“I could have done a lot more with $6 million,” said Erika Pinheiro, executive director of Al Otro Lado, a migrant aid organization that helps with street releases.

Vargas, who wrote to President Joe Biden last week to ask for his support, defended SBCS’s performance and mentioned its past work sheltering unaccompanied child migrants at the San Diego Convention Center in 2019.

“Nobody is perfect, especially when you’re trying to fill a gap from the federal government,” Vargas added, echoing a sentiment shared by many mayors in major cities.

Customs and Border Protection said in a statement on Friday that the street releases were “the latest example of the pressing need for Congress to provide additional resources and take legislative action to fix our outdated immigration laws.”

Between October and January, the Border Patrol discharged over 500,000 people with summons to appear in immigration court.

Migrant relief organizations are typically able to give temporary shelter. However, street releases are not uncommon. Last year, large-scale releases took place at the San Diego Transit Center.

San Diego has emerged as one of the most active corridors for illegal crossings, with an average of 800 arrests per day in January. Many come from West Africa and Asia, with a daily average of over 100 from China in January.

According to Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S.-Mexico border program, the Border Patrol has informed migrant relief groups that 350 street releases are scheduled for Friday. When pressed for numbers, the agency did not provide any.

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