Don’t send immigrants caught in Texas to California, says the congressman whose district includes Murrieta, where protesters blocked three buses carrying immigrants from entering a Border Patrol facility.
"They should handle this problem in Texas," Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona) told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, a day after the Murrieta confrontation. Calvert described his constituents as "extremely upset."
"I’m getting hundreds of phone calls," he said. "The anger is growing."
But Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) offered a different view of the protests.
"The buses the protesters tried to stop weren’t filled with dangerous criminals," she said. "They were carrying women and children, many of whom fled their homes in Central America to escape violence and death."
Although many of the migrants are likely to be deported, she said, "we must afford them access to basic due process and treat them with simple human dignity while they are in our government’s custody."
Still, Calvert said he and his constituents are worried that the detainees will be "let loose" in California.
On Tuesday, protesters forced buses carrying about 140 detainees to turn around and return to San Diego, where they had been flown from Texas.
Calvert, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, will be playing a crucial role in Congress’ response to President Obama’s request for more than $2 billion to manage the crush of unaccompanied children illegally crossing the Southwest border.
Among the responses Calvert plans to examine is whether National Guard troops should be deployed at the border, as a number of his Republican colleagues have suggested.
Calvert, who toured the Murrieta Border Patrol facility earlier this week, said he expects the protests to continue if more buses with immigrants arrive. He noted that the Inland Empire's struggling economy is fueling tensions over illegal immigration.
If immigrants are sent to Murrieta, Calvert said, he wants Riverside County to be permitted to set up a mobile clinic to provide health screenings, treatment and immunizations.
Calvert isn’t the only congressman upset with detainees in their districts.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) is upset that children caught illegally crossing the border are being housed at Ft. Sill in his district. "You don't bring outsiders onto a military installation who have no business being there," he recently said on the House floor.
Calvert expressed concern that Border Patrol officers were being pulled away from other duties, such as patrolling the I-15 corridor in search of drug smugglers, to deal with the influx of immigrants illegally crossing the Southwest border. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended on the Southwest border since Oct. 1.
The border crisis, he said, has doomed any overhaul of immigration laws in this congressional session.
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