MURRIETA (CBSLA.com/AP) — A dramatic scene in Murrieta that saw American flag-waving protesters prevent Homeland Security buses carrying undocumented migrant children and families from reaching a suburban processing center is likely to be repeated in the coming days, a city official said Wednesday.
Mayor Pro-Tem Harry Ramos told KNX 1070's Dick Helton that the standoff Tuesday - which included several protesters holding U.S. flags and signs reading "stop illegal immigration," and "illegals out!" - may occur every 72 hours as a new busloads of immigrants are processed through Border Patrol.
Mayor Pro-Tem Harry Ramos
"I believe that there will be protests every time there are buses on track," he said.
The standoff came after Mayor Alan Long urged residents to complain to elected officials about the plan to transfer the Central American migrants to California to ease overcrowding of facilities along the Texas-Mexico border.
After the buses were blocked, federal authorities rerouted the vehicles to a freeway and then to a customs and border facility in San Diego within view of the Mexico border.
Murrieta police did call for backup and were waiting on that before clearing the road but Border Patrol didn't want to wait, a city spokesperson told CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Tom Wait.
At least 40 illegal immigrants processed are in quarantine for head lice and scabies. A Border Patrol agent told Wait another 140 could be taken to Murrieta on the Fourth of July.
CBS 2's Kara Finnstrom reported Robert Garza, who was one of only a handful of protesters on hand Wednesday at the U.S. Customs & Border Patrol Station located at 25762 Madison Ave., said he understands the difficulties of the immigration process.
"I know it's a hard system to get through, but we're a nation of laws, and once we start tearing down those laws, what have we become?" Garza said.
Ramos said that while he supports "the rights of everyone to make their opinions heard" he hopes the demonstrations will remain orderly.
"I was really disappointed in seeing individuals inside the streets and blocking the pathway," said Ramos. "But absolutely, I support anybody who wants to protest, no matter what side of the aisle you're on."
Ramos also had harsh words for the treatment of the mostly women and children aboard the Homeland Security buses.
"What's happening now are people are being put into inhumane situations, this Border Patrol station does not have the facilities, is not equipped to properly care, treat, screen these individuals," he said. "The living conditions are unacceptable, and this is going on from the border all the way up."
Meanwhile, immigration advocates rallied Wednesday outside San Bernardino's Homeland Security office.
"We're human, and we need compassion and we need love," said Luz Gallegos, community services director of the immigrant services center TODEC in Perris. "We have felt the tension and the hatred within the organization — emails, calls."
Allies of the undocumented immigrants say hate and bigotry fueled Tuesday's dramatic standoff in Murrieta.
A young mother, who recently fled Honduras and crossed the border into Texas, addressed the crowd, saying, "I fled from my country because of the extortions, the criminal bands and the violence, for the same reason many people have."
Border Patrol Agent Ron Zermeno says he thinks the illegal crossings will continue because undocumented immigrants aren't being immediately deported.
"They're telling their countrymen, 'Hey, I got released.' So, once they hear that, there's no repercussions to come over here," Zermeno said.
Protesters attended an emotional town hall meeting on the issue 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Murrieta Mesa High School.
"If I break the law, you're going to come down on me real quick, and yet, you are not following the law," one attendee said. "You are breaking the law."
Crowds remained outside the town hall well into the night, waving flags and cheering as federal and local law enforcement increased their patrols.
Hundreds had to be denied access to the meeting, as the auditorium filled up rapidly.
Protestors on both sides, at that point, took to cheering and protesting outside the town hall meeting.
The next immigration bus is expected to arrive in Murrieta on the 4th of July.
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