Protesters In Murrieta Turn Back Buses With Migrant Families
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Aired 7/2/14 on KPBS News.
The mayor of Murrieta has called for a special town meeting Wednesday night to discuss the issue.
Three buses containing migrants bound for a U.S. Border Patrol facility in Murrieta were turned back after protesters blocked the road Tuesday afternoon.
Approximately 100 to 150 people — some holding signs stating “No New Taxes, No New Illegals” and “America Has Been Invaded” — stood in the road in front of the buses that were filled with 136 immigrants and their children who had entered the United States illegally.
The departure of the migrants from the Riverside County city marked a victory for the protesters who were waving flags while others carried signs reading "Stop Illegal Immigration" and "Return to Sender."
A small band of immigrant supporters also made a showing outside the Murrieta facility, but their shouts were largely drowned out by the opposing camp.
After more than 15 minutes, the buses backed away. They headed south on Interstate 15 into San Diego County, according to an aerial video on CBS8.com, before arriving at the Border Patrol facility in Chula Vista around 4 p.m.
"Quite frankly, I don't know why they didn't bring them there in the first place," said Christopher Harris, a Border Patrol union representative. He said the Chula Vista facility has bunk beds, showers and a recreation room.
The 136 migrants arrived by chartered plane Tuesday at Lindbergh Field where they boarded the buses, a federal Department of Homeland Security official in California told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to be named when speaking on the issue.
Once the migrants arrive at a federal facility, U.S. immigration authorities will determine whether they will be held or released pending deportation proceedings.
The flight to California was intended to help alleviate the crunch in the Rio Grande Valley after thousands of Central American families and unaccompanied children came to the U.S. fleeing violence at home.
Officials have also flown migrants to Arizona.
Following Tuesday's standoff in Murrieta, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said that once the migrants are processed, they will be taken to a "transition center" in Riverside County set up by a faith-based organization that would help the migrants arrange transportation to their final destinations and help them contact family members.
Murrieta Mayor Alan Long told concerned residents during a town hall meeting Monday that the city had coordinated with the Border Patrol to ensure the anticipated influx didn't create an untenable situation locally. He has called another meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the situation.
He expressed frustration that the federal government was moving its "headache" to Riverside County but assured residents that the individuals set to arrive don't have criminal backgrounds.
"This is a failure to enforce federal law at the federal level," Long said. "Murrieta continues to object to the transfer of illegal immigrants to the local Border Patrol office."
Officials said more migrants could be brought to Southern California within 72 hours.
Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform told City News Service there is no way of knowing "with certainty" the histories of those being brought to the area. Mehlman said some of the children who have been showing up and surrendering to federal agents along the border look older than they claim and have been identified as affiliates of criminal syndicates.
KPBS reporter Jill Replogle, The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.