Scores of Central American migrants who were turned away by protesters at a U.S. Border Patrol facility in Murrieta were undergoing Customs processing in the San Diego area Wednesday, with some children in the group hospitalized for evaluation of various ailments.
The 140 migrants were flown from Texas, where they initially had entered the United States, to Lindbergh Field on Tuesday, arriving about noon.
Three Department of Homeland Security buses then took them to the Riverside County USBP station in Murrieta, where a hostile rally blocked their entry. After a tense standoff, the caravan backed off and traveled south to a Customs and Border Protection facility in San Ysidro just north of the U.S.- Mexico line.
Each of the migrants was being medically screened there, and a few of the children were taken to hospitals to be evaluated for undisclosed ailments, Border Patrol officials told CBS8.
After being processed, the migrants will be turned over to ICE. Those planning on staying with family members or friends across the country will be taken to bus terminals or airports. Following their arrivals in their destinations, they will be required to report to the nearest ICE facility for case management.
The migrants will be sent to other Border Patrol facilities, which could include El Cajon, El Centro, Chula Vista, Campo, Boulevard or San Clemente, Ron Zermeno of the National Border Patrol Council told 10News.
NBC4 in Los Angeles reported that many of the migrants were transferred to various facilities overnight.
The departure of the migrants from the Riverside area marked a victory for roughly two dozen protesters who gathered in Murrieta to decry the foreigners’ arrival, many waving flags and others carrying signs reading “Stop Illegal Immigration” and “Return to Sender.”
The victory could be short-lived, however, with more migrants expected to arrive in Southern California on Friday, and they could potentially be taken to the Murrieta facility for processing.
Some immigration supporters also made a showing outside the Murrieta facility Tuesday, and several others awaited the group outside the San Ysidro facility.
William Crumly told 10News he went to welcome the group after seeing the protests in Murrieta.
“It was a little disturbing to see these vulnerable people met with such negativity,” he said.
The group of migrants were among tens of thousands of Central American nationals who have poured into the United States via Texas this year, according to ICE officials.
The Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector has been overwhelmed by the arrivals, prompting the Department of Homeland Security to seek other locations until their cases can be assessed.
“CBP will transfer certain individuals to U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Removal Operations, where appropriate custody determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing national security and public safety,” according to an ICE statement.
The ICE document specified that Murrieta would be the end point for “processing” the individuals, noting they “may be released with instructions to report to a local ICE office near their destination address within 15 days.”
Following the standoff, ICE officials said that once the migrants were processed, they would be taken to a “transition center” in Riverside County set up by a faith-based organization that would help them arrange transportation to their final destinations and help them contact family members.
Republican lieutenant-governor candidate Ron Nehring said the large number of Central American children being sent across dangerous terrain to illegally enter the country “are the victims of the failure of the federal government to create a safe, secure and modern border.”
“Poor economic and security conditions in Central America, combined with the rumor mill and the existence of cartels engaged in human, weapons and drug trafficking have precipitated this crisis in which the children are the real victims,” Nehring said.
He called for an improved immigration system that “serves our national and economic interests and respects our traditions of being a nation of immigrants.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, took to social media to express her dismay over how the migrants were treated.
“How people wave American flags in protest to immigrant women & children who just desperately want to make this their country, makes no sense,” Gonzalez said via Twitter.
Alor Calderon, chairman of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, said “unaccompanied minors fleeing their home countries is a humanitarian crisis, not an immigration crisis, and should be treated as such.”
“We must respond to a real crisis with understanding and compassion to act in the best interests of the children who would face unimaginable violence should they be returned to the origin of the crisis,” he said. “We call on the good people of San Diego to raise their voices for reason and not let the minority of hateful voices skew this issue.”
Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee called it “deplorable” that protesters “espousing anti-immigrant hate language created unnecessary tension and fear for immigrant mothers and their children.”
“Even more concerning is that elected officials in the city of Murrieta instigated this tension,” Rios said. “Mothers and their children on these buses have suffered through enough trauma.”
Rabbi Laurie Coskey, executive director of the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice, urged Southern Californians to “lead with our shared values” in response to the migrants’ plight.
“The refugees coming from Central America are human beings just like you and I,” she said. “The children are just like our children, and they are afraid. People of good will must stand up to hate and call for compassion, dignity and respect in the treatment of these vulnerable refugees.”
— City News Service
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