The immigration protest in Murrietta on Tuesday. Image from 10News broadcast
The immigration protest in Murrietta on Tuesday. Image from 10News broadcast

As federal officials prepare again to send busloads of undocumented immigrants to a Border Patrol station in Murrieta, the head of an immigration reform group today praised area residents who turned back buses in protest earlier this week, saying the action had a “ripple effect” throughout the country.

But people sympathetic to the migrants had a sharply different view, and decried what they called a lack of compassion by protesters who blocked the buses and waved anti-immigration signs.

For William Gheen, executive director of Americans for Legal Immigration, the actions of Murrieta residents made him “proud.”

“A lot of citizens are looking at what happened in Murrieta and want to replicate that,” he said, adding that he hoped more grassroots activists would openly oppose the arrival of “illegal immigrants and the agents permitting them to flagrantly break our laws.”

“This is not a natural or random phenomenon,” Gheen said. “This is an organized effort. It’s about finding new ways to circumvent laws that President (Barack) Obama and others don’t like. This has nothing to do with a humanitarian situation that just suddenly occurred. It’s being orchestrated.”

Gheen characterized the transfer of migrants to Murrieta and other parts of the country from south Texas as having the look and feel of “an invasion.”

“The ripple effect from Murrieta is a wake-up call,” Gheen said. “I would encourage people to stand in front of buses and planes, protest outside federal detention centers. Stop these waves of illegals. Our country and Constitution depend on it.”

Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez, D-Coachella, however, said his “heart was heavy” after seeing demonstrators block the buses arriving at the Border Patrol processing center in Murrieta Tuesday afternoon.

“These children and families are desperate, and to me it goes against basic American values to deny them the opportunity to seek safe harbor in our country,” Perez said. “Rather, I believe our response should be guided by compassion and by the imperative to care for those in need.”

The ACLU of Southern California released a statement describing the actions in Murrieta as “an ugly turn” in the immigration reform debate.

“Our nation’s refugee laws were created in the aftermath of World War II to ensure that we would never again turn away refugees fleeing death in their home countries,” according to the ACLU. “They require that everyone who legitimately fears persecution must receive a fair opportunity to make their case before an immigration judge, who can decide each case on the facts presented.

“We also wish, though no law requires it, that refugees fleeing truly terrible conditions in their home countries would be greeted with sympathy rather than fear and xenophobia.”

According to U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, officials intend to stick with a plan to bus in 140 migrants to the Border Patrol facility in Murrieta every three days for processing, with the next group expected Friday.

At what time of day or night the next buses will arrive has not been publicized.

“It is important that we, as Murrieta residents, keep in mind this is a federal action; the city has no authority to prevent this from happening,” according to a Murrieta police statement released Thursday.

Though the city has formally objected to the migrant transfers, there’s nothing local authorities can do to prevent them, police said.

According to ICE, the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector has been overwhelmed by the asylum-seekers — estimated at 40,000 so far this year — prompting federal officials to seek other locations to send them until their cases can be assessed.

ICE said the migrants, who are mostly “women and children,” will be released from federal custody and allowed to stay with friends, family or support groups in Southern California and elsewhere.

Ira Mehlman with the Federation for American Immigration Reform told City News Service earlier this week that there is no way of knowing “with certainty” the histories of those being brought to the local area, noting they could have gang affiliations or ties to drug cartels.

Both Mehlman and Gheen suggested the migrant transfers were part of an Obama administration strategy to gin up the debate in Congress over the possible enactment of immigration reform measures, which many critics have decried as backdoor amnesty.

— City News Service