LOS ANGELES (NYT) — Three buses carrying migrant families caught illegally crossing the Texas border with Mexico were turned away from a Southern California Border Patrol station on Tuesday afternoon when dozens of angry protesters met them with American flags and signs reading, “Illegals out.”
The approximately 140 immigrant detainees had been flown from overcrowded facilities in Texas into San Diego early Tuesday and were scheduled to be moved to other Border Patrol stations in the region.
But a crowd of screaming protesters in Murrieta stood in front of the buses as they arrived in the small city about an hour’s drive north of San Diego, shouting, “Go home,” and chanting, “U.S.A.” After several minutes, the buses turned around without dropping off any of the migrants.
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The federal authorities rerouted the vehicles to a freeway and then to a Customs and Border Protection center in San Diego within view of the Mexican border, The Associated Press reported. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said the buses had turned back because of safety concerns for the Border Patrol agents and the migrants on board.
The protest came after Murrieta’s mayor, Alan Long, told residents that they should make known their displeasure with the federal government’s decision to move the immigrants to their city. “Clearly, this is a failed system that is spreading the cost and needed resources to handle these situations on the backs of local communities,” Mr. Long said Monday.
Local officials had raised concerns for weeks about plans to send migrants to the city’s Border Patrol center, which has no showers or long-term housing, for processing. Mr. Long had said he expected migrants to arrive in the city on Tuesday, the first of a wave of arrivals he said would occur every three days for several weeks. The detainees were expected to be processed in Murrieta before being placed under supervision of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, said that the immigrants were to be placed in a transition center run by a faith-based organization in Riverside County. That organization, which asked the federal government not to identify it publicly, would then help the migrants reach relatives living in the United States, Ms. Kice said.
In the last year, there has been a surge of illegal immigration at the Texas border, including more than 52,000 minors caught without their parents since October. President Obama has called the influx of Central American immigrants a humanitarian crisis and last month ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate an effort to maintain detention centers and help children reunite with relatives living in the United States.
The migrants are also expected to be sent to Border Patrol facilities in El Centro, Calif., as well as other cities in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.