Bell backs plan for immigration detainee shelter in city

A plan to create a temporary shelter for immigrant detainees from Central America in Bell has taken a step forward.

Council members of the city that just a few years ago was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy after a massive corruption scandal voted on Wednesday night to support the Salvation's Army request for federal funding for the project.


The vote came after a spirited debate among residents over whether housing the detainees made sense. Many supported the idea on humanitarian grounds. Others, however, said it sent the wrong message.

Nearly two weeks ago, Bell officials said the Salvation Army was planning on using a vacant shipping warehouse to provide transitional housing for more than 100 immigrants, some of whom are children.

The warehouse is owned by the nonprofit organization and is in the northern section of the two-square-mile town, officials say.

"I think the community of Bell is a compassionate community, full of kindness and understanding," Bell Mayor Nestor Enrique Valencia said. "While not wealthy, we can come together in this humanitarian effort and be a fine example of 'America the Beautiful.' "

City officials said they would help the effort by approving city permits without delay.

The city's support is in contrast to Murrieta, where hundreds of protesters recently blocked buses while federal officials tried to move detainees into a facility in the Riverside County city.

The protesters said they did not want the detainees in their city, expressing concerns over security and diseases.

While the standoff generated national headlines, the reaction has been far less hostile in other parts of Southern California. In Bell, some residents said they felt a kinship with the plight of the children.

For Southern California news follow @LATVives.