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

A Riverside state assemblywoman is urging the governor to insist that Homeland Security stop sending busloads of migrants to Murrieta because the local governments don’t have the resources to ensure public safety.

“Local government, including the County of Riverside, Murrieta and its surrounding municipalities, were not given adequate time or the resources necessary to prepare for such a massive influx — forced upon them by the very agency designed to protect them from these exact circumstances,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said in a letter forwarded Wednesday to Gov. Jerry Brown.

“I am sure you can appreciate the budgetary and public safety concerns associated with this ongoing practice,” Melendez wrote. “I humbly request that, in accordance with the oath that (you) took upon assuming elected office, that you act in defense of the local families of Murrieta and for the health and dignity of those being transported cross-country in squalid conditions due to limited federal resources in Texas.”

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez. Courtesy photo
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. Courtesy photo

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, while agreeing that federal resources are needed to deal with what she calls a humanitarian crisis, said there has been no impact on local resources in processing the migrants coming from Central America. The migrants, whose buses were barred from entering a Murrieta Border Patrol processing facility earlier last week, were brought to San Ysidro — part of Gonzalez’s district — for processing.

“The government is working quickly to process these women and children and send them to their families and sponsors throughout the United States,” she said in a statement. “The practical impacts on our local communities have been nonexistent.”

Nancy Ward, chief deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying “while the situation remains the primary responsibility of the federal government, our office continues to work closely with both federal and local law enforcement officials.”

She said local “CHP officers assisted with limited crowd and traffic control at the request of local officials. We will continue to offer assistance to local law enforcement as it’s needed.”

Melendez’s request comes on the heels of protests and counter-protests in Murrieta over the Obama administration’s transfers of undocumented immigrants from Texas to Southern California, where they were to be processed before being released to stay with friends, family and support groups throughout the region.

Buses full of asylum-seekers were blocked from entering the Border Patrol processing center in the area of Guava Street and Madison Avenue early last week. Protesters bearing American flags and other patriotic symbols stood in the buses’ paths, shouting for them to turn around.

Gonzalez said it was inhumane to send these immigrants away from Murrieta to another processing facility as the Murrieta facility was much larger and more adequate to house the migrants.

“It’s a shame anyone would suggest they should be redirected to a less adequate facility,” she said.

Tensions escalated ahead of the July Fourth weekend, when pro-immigrant groups formed their own lines. Police arrested five people for obstructing and committing battery on law enforcement officers trying to maintain order. None of those arrested were from the local area.

“It is my understanding that the Border Patrol, under the direction of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, will continue to transport 140 undocumented Central American immigrants to Murrieta every 72 hours,” Melendez wrote in her letter to the governor. “The need for a cessation of this unprecedented violation of state sovereignty must not be blurred by the size and scope of your view from Sacramento.”

Melendez requested that Brown confront Johnson about whether he intends to carry on the “misguided relocation strategy” and for how long. If it continues, Melendez said, the governor should “immediately assess and make available state resources to ensure that public safety does not continue to be threatened by this deliberate federal blunder.”

“I ask this so that the people of Murrieta can … get an idea as to how long their neighborhoods will serve as the pit of such an ignominious international affair,” Melendez wrote.

Murrieta police said late Wednesday afternoon that they’ve been told by U.S. Border Patrol officials that there are no flights carrying migrants from Texas to San Diego scheduled for the rest of the week, so there will be no buses transporting migrants to the Murrieta Border Patrol station.

The undocumented immigrants, who for now are being diverted to a Border Patrol facility in San Ysidro, have been identified by the government as citizens of Central American countries fleeing to the U.S. to escape unspecified conflicts.

Border enforcement advocates have told City News Service there’s no way to know for certain who the migrants are, or where they’re from, without in- depth background checks.

According to the Obama administration, the transferees are being transported from Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, where around 40,000 have surrendered at the U.S.-Mexico border since the beginning of the year.

According to Immigration & Customs Enforcement officials, many of the transferees will be freed to stay with sympathetic groups until their cases can be adjudicated.

Ira Mehlman with the Federation for American Immigration Reform and William Gheen with Americans for Legal Immigration both told City News Service that the transfers appeared to be politically motivated, instigated by the Obama administration to intensify pressure on Congress to pass immigration reform measures that many opponents have blasted as backdoor amnesty.

— City News Service contribute to this story

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