The Pomona Economic Opportunity Center (P.E.O.C.) was founded on the mission to provide an opportunity for day laborers, household workers, and other low-wage, immigrant workers in Pomona and the Inland Empire find safe work at a fair wage, including expanding a person’s employability by teaching new trades and skills. Beyond helping secure employment, they show people how to advocate for themselves and shape policies that impact their lives and use these organizing skills to help improve the overall conditions for all immigrant workers.
Then hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children began arriving in Pomona.
Children ranging in ages from 7 to 14 years old who had overcome unfathomable hardships traveling alone, began arriving at Fairplex in early May of this year. The children who arrived unaccompanied at the U.S.-Mexico border were to be temporarily housed at Fairplex, which was designated a federal Emergency Intake Site (E.I.S.), as they waited to be reunited with family or placed with sponsors.
A powerful advocate for immigrants, the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center immediately mobilized.
P.E.O.C. quickly helped ensure the children were treated with the highest standard of care and reunified quickly with their families. It put its community organizing skills to work developing partnerships with federal agencies, Fairplex, the Pomona Community Foundation, and fellow community organizations like the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, to demonstrate how local communities can help ensure a welcoming and safe environment for newcomers and vulnerable children.
P.E.O.C. demonstrates tremendous commitment and compassion in its work to support youth transitioning out of the Pomona E.I.S. site and work to strengthen long-term local infrastructure and systems serving unaccompanied children. P.E.O.C. supported over 70 youth who turned 18 years old while housed at the E.I.S. and who had been processed by ICE and cleared for release. These youth were provided with lodging, food and flights to reunite with family members across the country.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that the Emergency Intake Site at Fairplex will be closing in November 2021, and children crossing into the United States will be able to be housed in permanent shelters. In total, the Fairplex Pomona E.I.S. served over 10,000 children and helped reunify over 7,500 of these youth.
“We support and welcome all immigrants. These vulnerable children need to be reunited with their families as soon as possible, and we need to come together to support their long-term well-being,” said Fernando Romero, P.E.O.C. executive director. “We can no longer accept band aid emergency responses. We have the capacity and the moral obligation as a nation to create a humane and functioning asylum system.”