MURRIETA, Calif. (AP) — A flight carrying migrants from overcrowded facilities on the Texas border with Mexico arrived Tuesday in Southern California but protesters blocked immigration authorities from taking the group to a suburban Border Patrol facility for processing.
Several dozen protesters, some waving U.S. flags and signs denouncing illegal immigration, converged outside the site in Murrieta. The buses finally backed away from the facility. Their next destination was not immediately known.
Earlier in the day, the chartered plane landed in San Diego with 136 migrants on board, a Department of Homeland Security official who was not authorized to be named when speaking on the issue told The Associated Press. Murrieta is about an hour north of San Diego.
A day earlier, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long urged residents in the suburb of 107,000 people to call their elected officials and voice opposition to the plan. He said police in the city were ready for any security issues, though he acknowledged migrants were not to be released locally and do not have criminal records.
The flight was part of a federal government effort to deal with a flood of Central American children and families fleeing to the United States to escape violence and extortion from gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Last week, U.S. authorities announced the plan to fly migrants from the Rio Grande Valley to Texas cities and Southern California.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been detained after crossing the Texas-Mexico border since October in what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis. Many of the migrants are under the impression that they will receive leniency from U.S. authorities.
The facility in Murrieta has no showers or beds and is designed only for temporary holds, said Gabe Pacheco, a spokesman for the San Diego chapter of the border patrol agents’ union.
Another flight was expected to take 140 migrants to a facility in El Centro, California, on Wednesday, said Lombardo Amaya, president of the El Centro chapter of the Border Patrol union. The Border Patrol would not confirm that arrival date.
The federal government is also flying migrants to the Texas border cities of Laredo and El Paso and to Arizona for processing.