When Long Beach officials first heard reports that migrants crossing the southern border were being flown or bused to other states with Democratic strongholds, they recognized a similar situation could unfold here—and started planning for it.
Reggie Harrison, director of the city’s Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Communications Department, said this week that the city began monitoring the situation last year, when migrants were first shipped from states like Texas and Florida to more liberal states like New York.
Most recently, a bus carrying at least 49 asylum seekers arrived in Los Angeles from Texas under the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott.
“It seems like those governors have targeted sanctuary cities,” Harrison said.
Long Beach is also considered to be a sanctuary city. But so far, there isn’t any evidence that the city has been targeted.
Nonetheless, Harrison said the city is prepared to offer some level of support and comfort to asylum seekers.
“It just depends on how large of a group we might see, but we’ve got a couple of different plans in place,” he said.
For smaller groups, it could look like a temporary motel stay. For larger groups, Harrison said the city has assessed sites where a temporary shelter, potentially using tents, could be erected to house migrants.
Harrison did not specify which larger sites the city has considered in the event it has to host a large group of migrants, but he did note that asylum seekers are legally allowed to stay in the country while they wait for their case to begin. They’re also free to decline the city’s help.
Long Beach has had some experience housing migrants.
In April 2021, the City Council approved a controversial shelter for unaccompanied migrant children, which housed children for a few months until they were reunited with family.
At the time, residents stepped up to provide donations and support to those children, and Harrison said the city could call on the community’s help again if it received a large group of migrants.
While the plan was highlighted at a budget hearing Tuesday, Harrison noted that there isn’t a specific amount of funding set aside to support a response. Instead, the city would use resources it’s already acquired, such as the tents and cots it uses for the annual winter homeless shelter, first. City staff tasked with working the response could be paid overtime.
If a response calls for more resources than what the city already has on hand, Harrison said the City Council would be asked to approve any expenses. The city could also seek reimbursement from the federal, state or county governments.
This month, Mayor Dave Bronson of Anchorage, Alaska, proposed sending the city’s homeless to Los Angeles this winter. Harrison said Long Beach is not anticipating that kind of response.
While migrants being shipped across the country has made national headlines in recent months that’s not the only potential event that Harrison’s team is prepared for.
Earlier this year, Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Communications released its Hazard Mitigation Plan, which listed the top threats to the city. Floods, dam failure and climate change-driven disasters like sea level rise and extreme heat are among the scenarios the department is planning for.
Long Beach has fault lines running beneath it, including the Newport-Inglewood fault, upon which an earthquake leveled much of the city in 1933. It also has a port and an airport, so responses to terrorism attacks are things the city has mapped out plans for.
“We put in place the appropriate plans, and hope that we don’t have to use them,” Harrison said.