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Immigrants welcomed to El Centro by lawmaker with a Bible

Rep. Juan Vargas carries Bible, prays with immigrants in El Centro, deplores Murrieta reception
Immigrants welcomed to El Centro by congressman with a Bible

El Centro was a far cry from Murrieta on Wednesday.

One day after protesters shouting "Go home!" blocked three busloads of immigrants from a Border Patrol processing center in Murrieta, a different group of immigrants in El Centro were welcomed by a congressman carrying a Bible. 

"What a different scene," said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), who was on hand in El Centro for the arrival of three busloads of immigrants in Imperial County.

The  mothers and children, who were caught illegally crossing the border in Texas, were flown to Yuma and bused to a Border Patrol facility in El Centro.

Not only did the El Centro reception differ, so did the response from the congressmen who represent the two areas — which are about 140 miles apart.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona), whose district includes Murrieta in Riverside County, told The Times earlier Wednesday that his constituents were "extremely upset" that detainees could be "let loose" in California. He called for immigrants caught in Texas to stay there until they can be deported.

In contrast, Vargas brought his Bible to the El Centro facility where the immigrants are to be housed, and prayed with detainees.

"It’s been an outpouring of love here," he said, adding that he assured the mothers and children that the United States would treat them "fairly and with dignity."

Vargas also had a message for what he called the "angry mob" in Murrieta: "Don't forget your humanity." He said he couldn't understand why the protesters who blocked the buses in Murrieta weren't arrested. 

Vargas praised the Border Patrol for its treatment of the immigrants. The surge in immigration has been spurred, in part, by false rumors that children and families will be given permission to stay in the U.S., as well as by violence in immigrants' homelands. 

richard.simon@latimes.com

Twitter: @richardsimon11 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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