The immigration situation is getting ugly.
Three busloads of immigrant children — many who were fled gang violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — met a human blockade on Tuesday afternoon in California. Many were accompanied by parents.
In downtown Murrieta, about 70 miles north of San Diego, hundreds of protesters shut off access to a nearby Border Patrol station in Riverside County, waving American flags, shouting “go home” and holding signs that read “stop illegal immigration” and “illegals out.”
Some 140 immigrant children and families had been flown from crowded facilities in Texas and were set to be transported to other Border Patrol stations.
The standoff proved too much for police. Federal authorities were forced to reroute the immigrants away from Murrieta and to a customs and border facility in San Diego within view of the border, the Associated Press stated.
The immigrants were supposed to be processed at the Murrieta facility and then turned over to ICE agents who would make sure they were united with family throughout the country.
“We’re not equipped to handle people long-term — we never tried to be,” Christopher Harris, vice president of the local chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, told the Desert Sun. “Most of our agents are really good people. … The morale is so low because they’re worried about dropping off people into these communities.”
The scene was chaos, according to local reports, as protesters clashed with immigration reform supporters and immigrants, some of whom shouted back retorts such as “We are your babysitters, we clean your hotels, we babysit your kids” and “Our people cook your food.”
The protest came after Mayor Alan Long urged locals to fight immigration transfers. He said immigrants were scheduled to arrive every few days for several weeks.
“Clearly, this is a failed system that is spreading the cost and needed resources to handle these situations on the backs of local communities,” Long said on Monday.
Long said the U.S. government is not enforcing immigration laws that call for immediate deportation of undocumented immigrants.
The Desert Sun said Murrieta Councilman Rick Gibbs also spoke, voicing concerns that immigrants would bring disease and crime to the city.
Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been detained after crossing the Texas-Mexico border in what President Obama called a humanitarian crisis. Murrieta is one of several cities whose facilities were set to accept the children in an attempt to ease the impact on the Texas border. They will also be sent to a border patrol facility in El Centro, Calif., as well as a center in New Mexico, which has caused lawmakers there to protest as well, according to the Los Angeles Times.
After the immigrants are interviewed and processed by Border Patrol agents, they are expected to be handed over to ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations. Immigration officials will reportedly determine on a case-by-case basis which families will be deported and which have a case for asylum, the Desert Sun reported.
Another flight is expected to transport 140 migrants to a facility in El Centro on Wednesday, though Border Patrol officials would not confirm that arrival date.
Juan Silva, a 27-year-old welder in Chula Vista, Calif., told the AP that the protesters were out of line, saying, “I don’t think people in that town should be against little kids.
“We’re talking about human beings. How would they feel if it was their kids?”