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San Diego hotels under contract to temporarily house asylum seekers

Catholic Charities and Jewish Family Service operate two asylum hubs in the county.

SAN DIEGO — The state health department has contracted two San Diego hotels to provide temporary housing to asylum seekers.

Local nonprofits run the operations, where thousands of migrant families get care before being transported to sponsor families across the country.

Asylum seekers are brought in on large, white buses operated by Customs and Border Protection, which deliver the migrants into the local care of Jewish Family Service of San Diego and Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego.

The nonprofits operate two asylum “hubs” at the sites of the Four Points Sheraton hotel on Greenwood Street in the Midway District, and the Ramada hotel site in Kearny Mesa.

Once at the hotels, the asylum seekers receive COVID testing, medical care, hot meals and showers before being transported to the airport and flown all over the country to live with sponsor families or relatives.

A typical stay is 24 to 48 hours.

“They are vulnerable individuals.  They are mothers and children, and they're just trying to get to their family member or their sponsor elsewhere in the country as safely as possible,” said Nadine Topposada, Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services with Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities runs the Ramada hotel hub in Kearny Mesa.

“One hundred percent of the population is COVID tested. Individuals who are COVID negative will remain at those hotels,” said Topposada.

Topposada said those who test positive for COVID cannot stay at the hotels. They are transported to quarantine sites run by the San Diego County, where the migrants stay until they are ready to travel.

“The whole process is designed to make sure the public is safe, and they don't have unnecessary exposure,” said Topposada.

The owners of both hotels are under contract with the California Department of Public Health, costing the state agency $46,000 per day to rent out all the rooms at the Sheraton hotel location. The Ramada hotel location is under contract for about $25,000 per day. That’s not including the cost of food, medical care or transportation.

“This process was set up to ensure the safety of migrants, and give them the privacy and dignity they deserve in arriving to a hotel to receive care and services on their way to their final destination,” said Topposada.

Jewish Family Service said it processes about 3,500 asylum seekers per month at the Sheraton hotel site in the Midway District. Catholic Charities said it services about 2,200 migrants per month at the Kearny Mesa location.

Both contracts between the state and the hotel owners run through Oct. 31.

Jewish Family Service emailed News 8 the following statement:

“As operator of the San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) Migrant Shelter Services, Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFS) continues to welcome asylum seekers into our country every day to provide respite and help them reunite with loved ones across the U.S. For the entire COVID-19 pandemic, we have demonstrated that it is possible to both prioritize public health and welcome vulnerable individuals with dignity. Since the pandemic, services for asylum seekers released by the government have transitioned from a congregate shelter to individual hotel rooms, in coordination with the State of California, UCSD Health and County of San Diego Public Health. SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services continues to provide case management, travel and financial assistance and legal support. Asylum seekers and immigrants receive COVID-19 testing and health screenings, following all public health guidelines. Our guests also have the option to receive a vaccine.

Since October 2018, SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services has assisted more than 48,000 people – mostly women and children – who would’ve otherwise been dumped by federal authorities in San Diego without food, shelter, transportation or resources. All guests have been released into JFS’s care by the Department of Homeland Security and are going through the legal process of seeking asylum in the U.S.”

WATCH RELATED: Migrant children seeking asylum leave San Diego Convention Center (July 2021)