|At a news conference today, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long joined other city and local officials in addressing the arrival of undocumented immigrants beginning Tuesday.|
At the same time, however, Long said it is impossible to know at this point how many of those immigrants might remain in Murrieta or surrounding communities after they are processed. Long said he was told by Border Patrol authorities that 140 undocumented immigrants will arrive at the Murrieta station every 72 hours for an undetermined period of time.
The issue stems from the arrival in the U.S. of thousands of immigrants -- many of them young children -- from Central America who have illegally crossed the border into Texas in recent weeks. Long said he was told in a conference call with Border Patrol agents and other local city leaders that because Texas can't handle the processing of the immigrants alone, the federal government is sending many to other processing areas.
"Supervisor Jeff Stone, Congressman Ken Calvert and surrounding local officials are in support of our efforts and have offered resources. Murrieta Police Department will take the lead and will incorporate resources into the established Incident Action Plan.
"This is a significant impact to our resources, but it is well within our capacity. Murrieta remains safe."
Long said he has been informed that the immigrants will have already been screened for health issues. Even so, Stone has offered to set up a mobile hospital at Murrieta's Border Patrol office for further screening.
Long also said he has been assured the group "does not include any criminals," but it is unclear how U.S. officials would learn about the potential criminal backgrounds of Central American citizens.
Menifee Mayor Scott Mann and City Manager Rob Johnson were in on the conference call this morning. Mann said he shares Long's concern about the problem a federal government decision has created for local cities.
"It's a national issue that needs to be solved at the federal level," Mann said. "This problem has been dumped in our back yard and we are charged with protecting our communities. Even though the federal government has dropped this in our lap, we have to get beyond the politics of what happened and focus on keeping our communities safe."
Mann said he was as shocked as everyone else when told on the conference call that 140 immigrants would be arriving in Murrieta every three days. He said Long and Border Patrol officials assured others on the call that southwest Riverside County would "not become a relocation camp."
"We were told there is a well-documented process for handling these folks," Mann said. "My understanding is that efforts will be made to transport them to families they have in the U.S., and that pre-processing interviews have indicated that many of those being sent here have families throughout California."
Neither Long, Mann nor Border Patrol officials will know until after processing of these individuals how many of them might have nowhere else to go.
Gabriel Pacheco (right), lead union representative of the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station in San Diego, attended today's news conference. He said the immigrants are fleeing violence and gang murders in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
"The mayor, as our chief is, has been caught in the middle of the whole thing," Pacheco said. "They are getting information from the Department of Homeland Security about where these people are going and where they are going to be placed. The mayor is having to deal with something that's been placed in his lap.
"These people are coming from very, very poor communities which are run by gangs, which is the murder capital of the world. There have been whole villages leaving to come here. They're running from the poverty and socio-economic situation they have down there."
In a press conference at the White House today, President Obama said he is prepared to take action on his own to address the immigration problem, blaming Republicans in Congress for failing to help pass immigration reform.
"I asked that when I left here, I would know what their plan was in case people started getting dropped off all over town," said Jack Frye (left), a Murrieta resident who addressed Long during the news conference. "I didn't get that answer. I was told the plan had been arranged, but I didn't get it. I wanted to go home feeling, 'OK, they got it covered."
Long said city officials will provide updates to local residents on the city's website and through social media. A Town Hall meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Murrieta Mesa High School.
At hotline has been established for the public as well. The number is 951-837-4343 to get updated information.