Update: Where Did the Children Go?

Mayor Robert Garcia and city officials announced late last month that Long Beach would be welcoming several hundred migrant children to be housed at the Long Beach Convention Center until a time in which the reunification of them and their families was possible (prospectively 7-10 days for each child to be specific). After two weeks of operation, with a lack of publicly available data, the facility has failed to reunite any children with their families or sponsors thus far. According to Forbes, only four families throughout the U.S., separated under the Trump administration, have been reunited since President Biden took office. Though the housing of migrant children here in Long Beach has been well-publicized, their transportation out of the city, and in this instance, the state, has not.

On April 22nd, close to 100 children departed Long Beach Airport (LGB) to Des Moines International Airport (DSM). LBLN received confirmation from a flight manifest that the World Atlantic Airlines charter was leased by Signature Flight Support, who was contracted by ICE. We reached out to Signature for information regarding the exact number of passengers and other relevant details included in the flight manifest in their possession. They refused to disclose any information.

LGB spokesperson, Kate Kuykendall, provided a statement in response to the incident as follows. “Private air charter operations are contracted through Fixed Base Operations (FBOs). Aside from verifying that private charters operations comply with the Noise Ordinance, Long Beach Airport has no authority to deny landing rights, monitor passenger manifests, or otherwise interfere with charter operations.”

In hopes of locating further information on the whereabouts of the migrant children aboard late April’s flight, we reached out to Zhan Caplan, the on-sight HHS spokesman for the facility in Long Beach. Zhan stated that they had no information regarding the flight of migrant children to Des Moines, Iowa on April 22nd. Reportedly unaware of the incident, Zhan clarified, “ICE is responsible for transporting children out of CBP custody and into HHS custody, which they do through a transportation contractor. The movement of children is dictated by a central operation managed by ICE and coordinated with the HHS. We do not have any visibility into anything outside of the number of children that will be transported directly to us.” Though, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Iowa, ICE maintains their denial of any involvement in the transportation of migrant children out of LGB or to have any relationship with Signature Flight Support (the FBO who chartered the flight). 

By: Daniel Drake & Jade Delao