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Immigrant children find refuge at Fontana church

46 immigrants taken in temporarily by St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Fontana
Fontana church takes in 46 immigrants, mostly children, on temporary basis
Fontana church working with Department of Homeland Security to temporarily house new immigrants

Forty-six immigrants carrying temporary visas arrived at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Fontana on Thursday aboard Homeland Security buses.

The church is helping federal agencies process the immigrants.

Following anti-immigrant protests in Murrieta, Fontana residents were giving the immigrants, most of them children, a much warmer welcome.

"I think it's good. Why not help them?" said resident Maria Manriquez, who was spending the afternoon at a park next to the church. "Many of us in the community came here the exact same way. We went through the same thing. Just how they're suffering now, that's how we suffered."

Manriquez, who emigrated from Mexico, said she offered to donate clothes and food at the church but was told to come back later when it was less busy.

Three families had already moved out by Thursday afternoon to reunite with relatives. Another three families were expected to leave by 6:45 p.m., said John Andrews, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino.

He said most people that arrived Thursday morning would not be there by the end of the day. He added the church has received requests to accept more immigrants but officials were unsure when that might happen.

Reina Vasquez, 40, of Fontana, said she supports temporarily housing immigrants at the church.

"As the mother of a 4-year-old, my heart goes out to them," Vasquez said. "If they're children we should provide a better life for them."

She said she would organize the community at her church to give donations to the people at St. Joseph's and help in any way possible.

Vasquez, who emigrated from El Salvador and is now a U.S. citizen, said she believes the community of Fontana, which has a large Latino population, will welcome the immigrants.

"It'll bring people out to say, 'I'm going to help them because they're kids,'" she said. "If they're children, we should provide a better life for them."

David Nuñez said he did not expect anti-immigrant protests in Fontana, but he believed the immigrants should not stay in the country permanently.

"I've got no issue with it as long as they're not here long-term and you start the deportation process," he said.

Nuñez, whose mother came to the U.S. legally from El Salvador in the '70s, said he supports immigration when done legally.

"I believe in the right way to do this thing," he said. "We cannot afford to be taking care of people from other countries.

"It tears my heart. I have three little ones myself. But for me, we gotta fix this problem," he continued. "As a country, we are already struggling as it is and we need to take care of our own."

Follow @James_Barragan.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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