At a raucous town hall meeting in Murrieta Wednesday night, city officials had a message for residents who a day earlier successfully blocked immigrant detainees from entering a local Border Patrol processing facility: Blame the federal government.
At the meeting, during which roughly 750 area residents peppered local representatives and law enforcement personnel with their concerns over plans to move detained immigrants through the facility, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long reiterated the need for the federal government to do more to address the influx of undocumented immigrants.
Citizens, he said, should direct their complaints not to local representatives but rather to Congress and the White House, which is using “frightened women and children” to score political points in the immigration debate.
A sharp increase in immigration on the Rio Grande border -- 77% from countries other than Mexico so far in 2014 -- has overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities in Texas, leading facilities in other areas such as Southern California to take up the overflow, according to Paul Beeson, chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol’s San Diego division.
Many of the migrants are women and children from El Salvador and Guatemala, who are believed to have sought refuge from gang- and drug-related violence.
The Murrieta debate began when migrants were routed to the city due to a backlog in the processing that each immigrant requires, Beeson said at the meeting.
After processing, immigrants are released into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who will assist them in reaching family members in the United States before their appearance in an immigration court, according to David Jennings, field director for ICE’s Los Angeles field office.
“When you have a noncriminal mother, they are going to be released,” Jennings said. “The most humane way to deal with this is to find out where they are going and get them there."
Long urged Murrieta residents to sign a city petition urging the federal government to establish "cohesive immigration policy."
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone hit the national government harder, saying that there was a "lack of political will to protect our borders," adding that the issue was a federal responsibility. He publicly demanded that Congress take action to secure the border.
Stone's remarks were met by applause and cheers of "USA! USA!" from the crowd.