PALM DESERT, Calif. - In an effort to process a massive influx of undocumented children, about 140 people will be brought to Riverside County Tuesday. The group, mostly children, will be flown from South Texas to San Diego then bussed into Murrieta in southwestern Riverside county. The border patrol office will process and release them, hoping they'll get picked up by family members who already live in the United States.
Local leaders responded to the debate over handling the crisis and the larger issue of immigration reform. "This is a result of the failure of federal law at a federal level," said Murrieta mayor Alan Long. He made it clear at a news conference Monday that he is against the decision.
The children who are being transferred are mostly undocumented immigrants from Central America caught at the Texas-Mexico border. Congressman Raul Ruiz says the immigrants need to go home, but not without getting help first. "To feed them, to make sure they have adequate shelter and clothing while they're here but start working immediately in uniting them with their families," said the congressman.
Some Murrieta residents protested the move of the immigrants to their city. State Assemblyman Brian Nestande, who's running for Ruiz's congressional seat, agrees. He believes the children shouldn't go anywhere but back to their countries. "To have these children endangered by putting them on buses, trains, unaccompanied by their parents, is just wrong," said Nestande on the phone from Sacramento.
Border patrol will screen and release the children, tracking them until they appear in court to address their immigration status. Long says many of them have family members throughout the U.S. For those who don't, sanctuary cities like Coachella could help. "We certainly, if we could, you know could help facilitate finding some of these babies and children homes," said Steven Hernandez, mayor pro team of Coachella.
President Obama called the situation a "humanitarian crisis." It underscores his continued call for immigration reform. Nestande, a republican, and Ruiz, a democrat, agree it needs to happen, but disagree on how. "It must be done in a series of bills, not just one large bill, I think that's a mistake," said Nestande.
"What we need is comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform and we need it now," said Ruiz.