Protesters block bus carrying detainees, chant ‘go home’
Protesters blocked the road near a U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta on Tuesday, forcing buses carrying migrant detainees to turn around.
Protesters in Murrieta generated national attention on Tuesday by blocking three busloads of detainees from reaching a Border Patrol processing station.
The buses, carrying about 140 detainees, turned around and headed back to a San Diego-area Border Patrol facility.
Police said about 100 to 150 people met the buses a few blocks away from the Murrieta Border Patrol station, chanting “Go home” and “We want to be safe.”
The detainees -- many of them women and children from Central America -- had crossed the border into Texas recently and were flown to San Diego by the Department of Homeland Security.
They had been bused to Murrieta for processing and supervised release through a religious volunteer group, pending appearances in immigration court.
Though the day had been tense and loud, the protests were nonviolent.
The verbal sparring continued Tuesday night, with about 100 marchers supporting the immigrants on one side of Madison Avenue and 50 opposing them on the other, with police in the middle of the street.
In a City Council meeting following the protests, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long thanked the crowds for refraining from violence. “The people who live here are passionate about their community, and that’s what you’re seeing outside today,” he said.
The incident came one day after Long urged residents to protest the federal government’s decision to move the recent immigrants -- who he said were to be the first in a series of arrivals -- to the facility in his city.
“Murrieta expects our government to enforce our laws, including the deportation of illegal immigrants caught crossing our borders, not disperse them into our local communities,” Long said Monday. The city had defeated two previous attempts to send migrants to the facility, he said.
Roger Cotton, 49, said he drove up from San Diego to wave a flag outside the Border Patrol station.
“I wanted to say that I, as an American citizen, do not approve of this human disaster that the government has created,” Cotton said. He said he believes the migrants who were supposed to be dropped off at the station would be a burden on an already strained system.
At the City Council meeting, city officials and community members took turns addressing the expected arrivals.
“Murrieta is not El Paso, we’re not Tucson. This is a small community. We do not have the facilities to feed and clothe people for an extended stay,” Councilman Rick Gibbs said. He cited the basic accommodations at the local Border Patrol facility, which, he said, had metal benches and limited lavatories.
Times staff writer Mark Boster, in Murrieta, contributed to this report.
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