Sat, Jul 12, 2014 - Page 7 News List

US pauses migrant move amid protest

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM:Without citing demonstrations by mostly white residents of a small California town, the US halted a plan to ship detained migrants to San Diego

Reuters, SAN DIEGO, California

Immigrant rights activist Miguel Hernandez, second right, stands among anti-immigration activists outside the US Border Patrol Murrieta Station in Murrieta, California, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

The US federal government has suspended its plan to send to the San Diego area hundreds of Central American migrants who have been flooding into Texas illegally from Mexico, US Border Patrol officials said on Thursday.

San Diego’s Border Patrol agents instead are to help manage the influx by processing paperwork and conducting intake interviews via computer and telephone, according to Gabe Pacheco, a spokesman for the agents’ union, the National Border Patrol Council.

US Customs and Border Protection officials declined to give a reason for the change, but it appeared driven by an outcry against the transfers in the town of Murrieta, California, where a Border Patrol office originally had been assigned to take in many of the migrants.

An initial group of about 140 undocumented detainees, mostly Central American women and children, was flown from Texas to San Diego on July 1, and then taken by bus north to Murrieta.

After processing there, immigration officials said, most were likely to be released within days under limited supervision — some to relatives and friends or charity organizations — to await deportation proceedings.

However, angry protesters blocked the buses from reaching their destination, forcing diversion of the caravan to another station in San Diego. Murrieta officials and residents have continued their objections to plans for further transfers there, citing public safety and health concerns.

For now, overflow processing sites set up by the Border Patrol elsewhere in Southern California, and in Arizona and New Mexico, will continue accepting detainees to ease the surge.

Only Murrieta, whose 107,000 residents are mostly white, has erupted in demonstrations. By contrast, the town of El Centro, California, where whites account for 14 percent of the population and Hispanics 81 percent, has seen no protests.

The immigrant groups are part of a growing wave of unaccompanied minors and families fleeing Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras and streaming into the US through Mexico.

More than 52,000 children traveling alone from Central America have been caught at the US-Mexico border since October, double the number from the same period the year before. Thousands more have been detained with parents or other adults.

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