MURRIETA, Calif. - About 140 undocumented immigrants, mostly families with children walked into a San Ysidro Border Patrol station, south of San Diego Tuesday evening. It was a quiet end to their day, a stark contrast to the near riot they were in the middle of, just hours before.
A crowd of protesters in Murrieta voiced their frustrations with a federal solution to an "immigration crisis" by blocking the road to the city's border patrol office. The protesters made sure the busses full of undocumented families could not make it to the office where they were scheduled to be transferred and processed. "I'm concerned that through an unvetted process, they're going to be released into the city," said Matthew Bagras, a Murrieta resident. "It's going to create health issues, it's going to increase crime and any other multitude of effects, that I don't think has been really research before this project."
The project transports these people from south Texas to other border patrol locations to deal with a massive influx of immigrants coming across the Texas-Mexico border. More than 52,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Central America, have been caught entering the U.S. illegally since October. People supporting the children and immigration reform went shout-for-shout with the protesters. "This wave is coming because they keep coming back because they know they have an opportunity here," said Diana Rodriguez. "So what are we going to do with the 40,000 children that are already here?"
Border Patrol says Immigration and Customs Enforcement will decide who can be released while they wait for their day in court to determine their immigrant status. There was a hope that some would be picked up by family members already living in the U.S. A union representative for border patrol describes a less hopeful situation. "There's no families that they're going to be released to, that's why they're getting released here, they're going to get processed and released," said Ronald Zermeno, a border patrol union representative.
That's what some protesters say they're most worried about. "We can't take of our vets, we cannot take care of our elderly, there's people out of work, where's this money coming from," said Nancy Greyson.
While all of this fuels the larger conversation of immigration reform on Capitol Hill, one supporter says the focus should stay on the children at the center of all this. "Now that they're here, what do we do?" said Rodriguez. "We can't just send 40,000 kids back and forth that's not going to happen, so can we do to help the ones that are here?"
The women and children will undergo background and medical checks. Immigration officials say many will be released from custody. ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued statements saying the group will be transferred "where appropriate custody determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing national security and public safety."