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Feds to address city where busloads of immigrants were turned away

Feds to appear at town hall meeting in Murrieta tonight after protesters block buses of immigrant detainees

Murrieta city officials have scheduled a town hall meeting for Wednesday evening to discuss federal plans to process undocumented immigrant detainees, one day after their convoy to a local Border Patrol facility was blocked by a group of protesters.

The convoy, which included three buses carrying 140 of the detainees, was eventually forced to turn away from the Border Patrol facility in Murrieta. The detainees — many of them women and children from Central America — had recently crossed the border into Texas, and were flown to San Diego by the Department of Homeland Security.

In addition to federal immigration officials, Murrieta's mayor, city manager and police chief are expected to attend the meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Murrieta Mesa High School.

The officials will be available to answer questions and concerns from residents and update them on the city's plans for addressing the potential influx of immigrants processed through the local facility.

Among the questions the city answers on its website ahead of the meeting: "Who is going to feed, clothe, house, and medically treat these people?" and, “If we see immigrants wandering the streets, is there someone we can call to pick them up?”

The initial group on Tuesday afternoon was to be followed by arrivals every 72 hours for several weeks, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long said. The immigrants were to be processed at the Murrieta facility before being placed under the supervision of federal agents who would ensure that they were united with family members throughout the country, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Another group is expected at the Murrieta facility Friday, a Border Patrol union official told the Press-Enterprise.

In light of Tuesday’s protests, ICE officials declined to say what the future held for the Murrieta station and potential arrivals.

“At this point, due to safety and security considerations ... we are not providing any further information,” Kice told the Los Angeles Times in an email Wednesday.

ICE officials had met with city officials in Murrieta and Temecula before the protests, Kice said.

Those preliminary discussions, however, also gave anti-illegal immigration activists time to galvanize. When the buses arrived they were surrounded by protesters, despite the efforts to keep them from hindering the arrival by police.

Though the day was tense and loud, the protests were nonviolent.

This year, Border Patrol agents across the Southwest have detained more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors, with a particular concentration along the Rio Grande border in Texas, according to federal records.

Murrieta is one of several cities whose facilities will receive migrants as the government seeks to lessen the burden on the Texas border area. Migrants will also be sent to a Border Patrol facility in El Centro, Calif., in Imperial County as well as to a center in New Mexico, which has caused lawmakers there to object.

At a City Council meeting in Murrieta after Tuesday's protests, Councilman Rick Gibbs cited the limited accommodations at the local Border Patrol facility, which, he said, had metal benches and limited lavatories.

"Murrieta is not El Paso, we're not Tucson. This is a small community," he said. "We do not have the facilities to feed and clothe people for an extended stay."

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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