The migrants, a group of around 140 adults and children, were sent
to California to be assigned case numbers and undergo background
checks before most were likely to be released under limited
supervision to await deportation proceedings, U.S. immigration
But plans to bring the immigrants to a Border Patrol outpost in
Murrieta, 60 miles (100 km) north of San Diego, sparked an outcry
from town mayor Alan Long, who said the migrants posed a public
safety threat to his community.
The group is part of a growing wave of families and unaccompanied
minors fleeing Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras and streaming by
the thousands into the United States by way of human trafficking
networks through Mexico.
Most have shown up in Texas, overwhelming detention and processing
The surge has left U.S. immigration officials scrambling to handle
mass numbers of Central American migrants who, by law, the
government cannot immediately deport, as they normally could illegal
border crossers of Mexican or Canadian origin.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied children from Central America have
been caught trying to sneak over the U.S.-Mexico border since
October, double the number from the same period the year before,
according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures. Thousands
more were apprehended with their parents.
The group caught up in Tuesday's confrontation arrived by plane at
midday in San Diego from Texas, where they had been apprehended
while trying to cross the border, and were put on three unmarked
buses for the ride to Murrieta.
As the buses neared their destination, some 150 protesters waiving
American flags and shouting "Go home - we don't want you here,"
filled a street leading to the access road for the Border Patrol
station, blocking the buses from reaching the facility.
The demonstrators disregarded orders from police to disperse, but
officers did not attempt to intervene physically to break up the
[to top of second column]
After about 25 minutes, the buses backed up, turned around and left.
A board member of the union representing border patrol agents, Chris
Harris, said the buses would likely be rerouted to one of six other
Border Patrol stations in the San Diego sector.
Lois Haley, a spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement
agency, declined to say where the buses were headed.
Local television station San Diego 6 said the buses went to the
Chula Vista Station where about 140 migrants, mainly women and
children, could be seen entering, though it was unclear if they were
processed inside. It also said several of the children were taken to
hospital for unspecified treatment.
A supervisor at Chula Vista declined to comment.
A separate group of undocumented families with children was being
sent on Tuesday to a similar processing facility in El Centro,
California, a desert community about 100 miles east of San Diego,
U.S. immigration officials said. But there was no word on any
disruptions of their arrival.
(Reporting by Marty Graham and Eric M. Johnson; Writing by Steve
Gorman; Editing by Alison Williams)
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