On Tuesday afternoon, a swell of anti-immigrant protesters prevented three buses carrying undocumented immigrants from driving to a Border Patrol processing facility in Murrieta, California, a small town less than two hours away from Los Angeles. Waving the American flag and shouting “USA,” Take them away from here,” and “America, stand your ground,” demonstrators refused to leave the roadway, forcing bus drivers to transfer the immigrants to another facility in San Diego county.
Organizers from the anti-immigration group We the People Rising shouted, “Nobody wants you. You’re not welcome. Go home.” One protester shouted, “Turn around and go back,” “Vamanos. You’re in contempt of Congress…. criminals. Go home. We have no money for you.” Another protester approached a tan police officer who tried to hold back the crowd, saying, “Can you take the day off for me, boss? These are your kids too, man.”
About 140 undocumented immigrant detainees, including migrant families like mothers with small children, were en route to the Murrieta facility to be processed for “supervised release … pending appearances in immigration court,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
A small group of immigrant counter-protesters was also present and verbally threatened at the demonstration, including Lupillo Rivera, the brother of the late Mexican singer Jenni Rivera. He told the Los Angeles Times that a protester had shouted that “he was an illegal immigrant and should go home.” Rivera, a U.S. citizen, “went home and returned with several of his friends and bandmates to confront the protesters.” Though the police were largely able to separate the two groups of protesters, both groups stayed into the evening.
After the incident took place, Murrieta’s Mayor Alan Long told Fox News, “When you start asking about the health screenings that they claim they get, there’s a lot of gaps. They could not answer a lot of questions that we had to give us certainty that the people on those buses were healthy.”
Long’s public health argument has been raised before by various anti-immigrant groups, but migrants detained at the border are medically screened for “communicable diseases of public health concern” and symptoms like rash, fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea during the processing stage.
The Murrieta mayor warned residents on Monday that the city’s Border Patrol processing facility would receive about 140 immigrants from Texas every 72 hours as part of the federal government’s plan to deal with the surge of unaccompanied children who are mostly fleeing violence and grinding poverty in Latin America. Long explained that the city had been “successful” in turning away Border Patrol efforts twice before. He said, “Murrieta continues to object to this transfer of illegal immigrants from local Border Patrol offices. … What you the public can do … contact your Congress representative and the White House. Residents can help by spreading facts and not rumors. … Right now, the best thing you can do is to contact the federal officials that makes these decisions and ask for it to be changed.”