Protesters in Murrieta, California are vowing to turn out in even greater numbers if more buses carrying illegal immigrants arrive in the city of 100,000.
Halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, the community hosts a processing facility operated by the US Border Patrol. On Tuesday, residents made headlines nationwide when they placed themselves in the paths of three buses carrying undocumented immigrants who had crossed the border in Texas.
Outraged at the federal government for failing to secure the border with Mexico and allowing undocumented migrants to pass into the country while US citizens continue suffering from the Great Recession, the protesters decided to act. They successfully prevented the buses from reaching their intended destination, forcing them to turn around and leave.
Emboldened by this perceived victory, the demonstrators turned out in force at a town hall meeting Wednesday night to express their anger and vow that they will continue taking action.
A packed auditorium full of differing opinions lobbed questions and accusations at the politicians and law enforcement on stage.
Many attendees were openly hostile to the idea of more immigrants coming, receiving applause and cheers when demanding that no more buses be sent. Others asked about health and safety issues, expressing concern when an official on stage said four children had been sent to the hospital for fever and scabies.
Those disapproving of the situation were most prominent, overshadowing those who attempted to speak up for migrants and urge the community to show compassion.
One thing that nearly everyone in attendance could agree on, however, was that the federal government should be doing more to address the issue of immigration. The large crowd gave a county health department official two standing ovations during a speech in which he repeatedly cast blame on President Barack Obama and Congress for failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Ron Zermeno, a union representative for the Border Patrol agents in Murrieta , told The Desert Sun that he had serious concerns the center would have been able to handle even the first families to arrive.
"It's chaos. It's going to be a mess," said Zermeno, who told reporters the center lacked dining and dorm facilities. .
At the center of the controversy are tens of thousands of women and children from Central American countries who have poured into the US through Mexico in recent months. The Border Patrol in Texas reportedly caught 160,000 individuals crossing in just the first eight months of the fiscal year. With the unprecedented surge, the federal government has been left scrambling trying to care for the migrants, and in particular unaccompanied children.
A law signed by President Bush in 2008, The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, prevents children not from Mexico or Canada from being deported to their home countries. This week, President Obama began to push for an amendment of that law, and to empower border patrol to make deportations on the spot, without the court process.
Since the beginning of 2014, over 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed into Texas, with many more accompanied by their mothers. Up to 90,000 are expected by the end of the year, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The illegal border crossings have left state and national government with a massive backlog of thousands of children and families to house and process.
Federal authorities have rented massive warehouses in Arizona and other states to house the migrants. From these facilities, many are sent elsewhere for processing, including to Murrieta.