Hundreds of protestors blocked the path of buses full of undocumented immigrants outside the entrance to the U.S. Border patrol station in Murrieta today, forcing the buses to turn around and head for an undisclosed location.
A Border Patrol official said it was unclear whether the buses would make another attempt to enter the facility, where 140 immigrants -- many of them children -- were scheduled to be processed. The immigrants crossed over the U.S. border into Texas and have been sent here for processing.
"We will never surrender America," said Raymond Herrera of the "We the People" group, addressing the gathering of protestors over a loudspeaker after the buses left the area.
Protestors began gathering on Madison Street across from the Border Patrol station entrance early in the morning. They were met by almost as many media members as Murrieta police tried to keep the street clear for residents. At about 2 p.m., a helicopter overhead signaled the arrival of buses carrying the immigrants.
After originally turning onto a side street several hundred yards short of the facility, the buses returned and tried to reach the station entrance. They were blocked by the protestors, who stood in front of the stopped buses in a standoff that lasted more than 20 minutes.
Finally, after several confrontations between protestors and others defending the rights of the immigrants, police officers donned riot gear and began to form a line in front of the buses. Soon thereafter, the buses backed up, turned around the left the area.
"We're not a detention facility; we're a holding facility," said Ron Zermeno (right), director of health and safety for the U.S. Border Patrol. "We have no showers, we have no laundry services here. We don't even have a dining area. These people must eat in their cells, which are next to the restroom. So basically, these people would be eating five feet from someone using the bathroom."
Wherever the immigrants are ultimately processed, Zermeno said they will be released at area bus stations. If they are eventually processed at the Murrieta station, he said the plan was for them to be released afterward at bus stations in Perris, Riverside and San Bernardino.
"Those were the cities that were identified to me by ICE sources," said Zermeno, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Those destination cities can change."
Asked what happens to those immigrants after they are dropped off a bus stations, Zermeno was straightforward in his response.
"They can go wherever they want," he said. "They are told that once they get to their final destination, they are to report to the nearest ICE station and turn themselves in so they can get a court date. You tell me who's going to actually do that."
That statement seemed to reinforce the fears expressed Monday by Murrieta residents, who said they had concerns that immigrants would be dropped off and would wander the streets.
"I want to show people what happens when illegals come to this country and drive without a license, without insurance, without registration," said Sabine Durden, a Murrieta resident whose son died after being hit by a car Durden said was driven by an undocumented immigrant. "My son was killed by an illegal criminal who was here a good six, seven years ... arrest after arrest after arrest.
"I have to deal with this side of the story. When I hear about the poor little kids ... I feel for them and I understand everyone wants to have a better life. I came from Germany; I am a legal immigrant. I became a citizen. But I had to go through the right channels."
"This is crazy," said Ray Gorom, who drove from Corona to join the protest. "I can't believe this is happening. First of all, the mayor should be down here right now. (Congressman) Ken Calvert should be here right now. It's sad that they won't listen to us -- Democrats or Republicans.
"The No. 1 responsibility of our elected officials is to protect our homeland. I have compassion for people who need help, but we have a lot of people in our country who need help. Let's help our people first."
The situation will be discussed during the Murrieta City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Meanwhile, several protestors remain at the Border Patrol station, along with media members.