While President Obama indicated that he would be asking Congress for emergency funds to deal with the border issues of late and expedite the immigration cases of hundreds of people who have infiltrated U.S. borders fromCentral America, opposition has continued to heat up at the local level. Anti-immigration protesters in the town of Murrieta had little time to celebrate their success last week in turning away three buses full of illegal immigrants and stopping them from gaining access to the Murrieta Immigration Detention Center as the group geared up for another protest on Monday.
The protesters were not given the satisfaction of physically turning away any buses this time, however as the two buses carrying detainees from South Texas went to the San Ysidro processing center on the border between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. Protesters still saw the day as a win, though it was unclear whether the buses had taken an intentional detour, or they had been headed for San Ysidro all along. Members of the group say their only aim is to keep the detainees from being released into their community and, in their eyes, cause a financial drain on the city. Moreover, the protests have served to bring the issue of immigration back to the national spotlight, with the Murrieta group serving as the poster children for the newest rash of debates on illegal immigration.
Surprisingly these protests came in response to Murrieta Mayor Alan Long’s call for action to his community. He too believes that Murrieta, and the country at large cannot sustain the economic burden he feels illegal immigrants cause. The Mayor has even gone so far as to say that the President has acted illegally in allowing migrants to stay in the US while their cases are processed rather than immediately deporting them. The law does state that all illegal immigrants must be processed in this way in order to determine whether they are eligible for protected status.
The original Murrieta protests were held on July 1, when a few dozen people were able to blockade the detention center and turn the buses away. On July 4, another protest was held, but this time protesters from both sides of the argument showed up. Pro-immigration advocates showed up to show support for the immigrants, who were mostly women and children. Tempers flared between the two sides, and five arrests were made. The protesters showed up on July 4 even though no immigrants were scheduled to be brought to Murrieta because in his original announcement Mayor Long said that immigrants could be brought to Murrieta as often as every 72 hours fueling the reason for protesters showing up on Monday as well. It is possible that the Murrieta anti-immigration groups will show up every three days for quite a while. One protester said they would do this to send a message to other countries, saying the more buses were turned away, the more people in Central America would “get it” that their efforts to smuggle children and family members into the U.S. would not yield results.
Not everyone in Murrieta sees the stopping of these immigrants going through their due immigration process as a success or gain for the community in the way the protesters do, however. City Manager Rick Dudley countered Mayor Long’s comments, which he said were misinterpreted, and the events of the past two weeks had given the community of Murrieta a “black eye.” City Manager Dudley did not elaborate on how Mayor Long’s comments were misinterpreted, but it’s clear that the community in Murrieta is divided on this issue, as is the country.
Mayor Long has said that he will not call off the protesters until he sees some answers from the White House about expediting the deportation of immigrants from South and Central American countries. Those answers may be a long time to come, however as President Obama has made it clear that his priority is speeding up the processing of these immigrants and determining if they qualify for protected status, not changing legislation to satiate this group of protesters. One thing advocates on both sides of this debate can probably agree upon, however, is that the immigration issue has gained more attention via the group of protesters in Murrieta, though, from this vantage point, success looks very different from either side of the picket line.
By Layla Klamt