Citing “safety and security considerations,” federal officials are declining to discuss what’s next for about 140 immigrant detainees turned away Tuesday by hundreds of protesters who blocked their buses from entering a Border Patrol processing station in Murrieta.
On Tuesday, 100 to 150 protestors met three buses a few blocks from the border patrol station with chants of “Go home” and “We want to be safe.”
The buses were carrying immigrant detainees — many of them women and children from Central America — who had recently crossed the border in Texas. They were flown to San Diego by the Department of Homeland Security.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials met with city officials in Murrieta and Temecula before the protests, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the agency.
“We’re sensitive to those issues and we’re seeking to address them,” she said.
An initial 140 migrants had been expected to arrive in Murrieta on Tuesday afternoon, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long said, followed by arrivals every 72 hours for several weeks. The migrants were to be processed at the Murrieta facility before being placed under the supervision of ICE agents who would ensure that they were united with family throughout the country, Long said.
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.
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. Migrants will also be sent to a border patrol facility in El Centro in neighboring Imperial County, as well as a center in New Mexico, which has caused lawmakers there to protest.
Though the day was tense and loud, the protests were nonviolent.
At a City Council meeting after the protests, 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,” the mayor said.
Councilman Rick Gibbs also 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.”
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