Crowds of protesters and immigrant rights supporters gathered Friday outside a Southern California border patrol station where another convoy of buses carrying undocumented immigrants was expected to arrive as part of a federal government plan to address the nation's border crisis. Damian Trujillo reports.
Crowds of protesters and immigrant rights supporters gathered Friday outside a Southern California border patrol station where another convoy of buses carrying undocumented immigrants was expected to arrive as part of a federal government plan to address the nation's border crisis.
Tensions were running high as at least five people - three women and two men - were arrested after scuffles broke out between protesters. It was unclear what prompted the altercations.
Border patrol agents set up cones and a stop sign along a road in Murrieta, a community of about 106,000 people about 80 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, as a crowd camped out in anticipation of the buses. One person was detained early Friday for interfering with a police officer after refusing to stay behind a line of yellow police tape, according to authorities.
Many of those opposed to the transfer of the undocumented immigrants to California from Texas carried anti-immigration signs and American flags. Other members of the crowd voiced support for the immigrant families, whose transfer and release created a strong divide between those who want to help and those who don't want them here at all.
"I just want the buses to come through and these women and children taken car of," one woman said.
The gathering comes three days after protesters blocked buses that were supposed to arrive at a Murrieta border patrol center on Tuesday, forcing federal authorities to process the passengers at other Southern California locations. As of Friday morning, it remained unclear what time the immigrants would arrive.
Protesters said they plan a repeat of Tuesday's events.
"When the buses come, you are going to see Americans that are willing to throw themselves under the bus, that's what you are going to see," demostrator Greg Allison said ahead of the migrants' arrival. "I don't care if I lose a limb. Even if the buses get past me and I lose a limb, guess what? The rest of the country is going to take notice."
Among the protesters was a lone pro-immigrant sign written in Spanish that read, "No tengan miedo," which translates to "don't be scared."
"I hope they know that there are people supporting them," demonstrator Briana Trejo said.
A line of people waited, meanwhile, with bags filled with clothes and other necessities to help the hundreds of mostly women and children from Central America who are being transferred from Texas to Southern California. Some members of the crowd said they wanted to stop the buses from entering the station because they feared the detainees would be subjected to crowded conditions.
In a letter to President Barack Obama Thursday, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long said the "facility is not appropriate for" processing migrants.
"It is essentially a jail, designed to hold drug runners and criminals caught at the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-15 just south of Temecula," Long wrote.
Long, who has said Murrieta is dealing with the "failure of the U.S. immigration policy and process, and other city officials met with residents about the issue earlier this week at City Council and town hall meetings. Residents expressed health and safety concerns about upcoming migrant arrivals planned for the border patrol station.
"I understand that as a city we do not have a role in immigration policies, but we are certainly being affected by it," Long wrote in the letter.
Since the federal government isn't providing any funding, non-profits and community-based groups, will bear the financial burden of transitioning the migrants into American society, said Luz Gallegos, of the Training Occupational Development Educating Communities Legal Center in Perris.
"Organizations across the Inland Empire, even cities, are coming forward and saying, 'We're here to help,'" she said.
After being released from the Border Patrol, the migrants will most likely need food, shelter and clothing as they make their way to family and friends who will take care of them until their court date.
However, tensions are so high in the city that many organizations are not releasing information on where the migrants will be temporarily housed. And organizers don't know how much it will cost to care for them.
"We don't know exactly how much time they'll be spending," said Luis Nolasco, with the Justice for Immigrants Coalition. "It could be a couple of days, a few hours."
The fear is, without any help, they'll likely end up on the streets.
"It's not about the federal government dumping these people or not," Nolasco said. "But rather how we can as a community from the Inland Empire better assist all these people and make sure that all of them get here to their families and are safe."