MURRIETA, Calif. - By Paul J. Young - City News Service
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 praised area residents who turned back buses in protest earlier this week, saying the action had a ``ripple effect'' throughout the country.
``A lot of citizens are looking at what happened in Murrieta and want to replicate that,'' said William Gheen, executive director of Americans for Legal Immigration. ``We are really proud of the folks in Murrieta.''
Gheen, who spoke to City News Service as he boarded up his Raleigh, N.C., home in anticipation of Hurricane Arthur, 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 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.''
``Does anybody really know who these illegals are, where they come from?'' he wondered. ``How can our government honestly verify that? From what I understand, these people are coached on what to tell federal agents. They're brought to the border by human smugglers and drug cartels; they're handed over to the Border Patrol; and then our agents finish the job by accommodating them.''
``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.''
Those sympathetic to the migrants, including Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez, D-Coachella, have offered a sharply different view on the asylum-seekers and the reasons for their being brought to Southern California.
Perez released a statement saying 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 City of Coachella is collecting donations for the undocumented children.
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. 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 Friday.
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.
Mehlman said the president's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy initiative has served as an ``inducement'' for undocumented immigrants to make a mad dash across the U.S.-Mexico border.
``There's no question about a surge,'' Mehlman said. ``The estimates are 90,000 DACA asylum-seekers this year and 150,000 next year. DACA sends a signal that if you're a minor, you'll get to stay in the United States, regardless of immigration status.''
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.