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In California, US town fears migrant invasion

05 july 2014, 09:03
0
©Reuters/Sam Hodgson
©Reuters/Sam Hodgson

Days after things nearly turned ugly here, several residents kept up their protest against a surge of undocumented migrants near the border with Mexico, AFP reports.

"Border patrol, we know that you guys are doing your job, but unfortunately it's not helping America. Shut down the border," Pete Santilli shouted through a megaphone.

The anti-immigration radio talk show host was among a small of protesters still venting anger in the California town of Murrieta, in turmoil since three buses brought 140 undocumented immigrants from Texas on Tuesday.

With placards reading "Stop Illegal Immigration" and "Send Them Home," protesters blocked the road in this small, peaceful town of some 100,000 residents to prevent the buses entering town, forcing them to head instead to San Ysidro, near San Diego.

Busloads of migrants

But wary locals have remained on the lookout, worried that authorities will try to bring more busloads in if they let their guard down.

"I don't want diseases, I don't want criminal elements, I don't want terrorist elements," said Burke, a visibly angry retiree who lives nearby.

"I feel compassion for them, but I didn't create the problem in their country and I will not sit down and see them create a problem in my country," he added, standing under a parasol in the desert town.

Overwhelmed by the massive waves of mostly lone child immigrants crossing from Mexico into Texas and Arizona, the US government has been forced to transfer some of them to detention centers elsewhere, including in California.

Murrieta residents fear that, after submitting the children to medical tests and legal processing, authorities will let them free to roam the town.

"They are becoming homeless. They are not verifying where the relatives are. They give them a ticket (for a bus), some money for food and send them out," Miles Kaplan told AFP.

"If I lived in Central America, I would want to live here too. We can't sustain them, so we are going to be as bad as their countries."

Hundreds of immigrant rights' defense groups have voiced outrage at the "intolerance" of Murrieta, located about halfway between Los Angeles and the Mexican border, accusing residents of racism and discrimination.

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned locals' attitudes, saying it wished "that refugees fleeing truly terrible conditions in their home countries would be greeted with sympathy rather than fear and xenophobia."

"I'm hurt because it's not discrimination. But we can't take this anymore," said Kaplan.

Murrieta Mayor Alan Long -- whose wife is Mexican -- held a town meeting late Wednesday with residents and officials seeking to calm their fears, and reiterate that it's a federal problem that President Barack Obama should resolve.

Obama announced Monday that he would act unilaterally to ease the situation, admitting that immigration reform is blocked in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

Murrieta's economic development director, Bruce Coleman, said the town has no say in when or how many more migrants arrive -- in theory 140 are due every 72 hours. "It's beyond our powers," he said.

"I guarantee you I can have 50, 100 people in minutes here," said Burke, who declined to provide his last name. "We don't want them here, we won't let them in."


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