Department of Homeland Security buses transporting migrant families arrive at the Border Patrol station in El Centro, Calif., on Wednesday. / Omar Ornelas, The (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun
EL CENTRO, Calif. ‚?? Federal officials quietly transferred three busloads of undocumented immigrants here Wednesday, a day after more than 100 protesters blocked an attempt to transfer three busloads to a Border Patrol facility farther north in Murrieta.
Unlike the tension and frustrations evident in Murrieta on Tuesday, there were no protesters, immigrant activists or family members in sight to meet the buses at the Border Patrol station in El Centro as they arrived around noon.
In a predominantly Latino and heavily immigrant city that sits just a few minutes from the Mexican border, the arrival of 140 immigrants didn't come as a surprise to most residents.
"It doesn't bother me," said Pete Rodriguez of El Centro. "I know why people are leaving their own countries - they're starving. You can't make $2 in a day over there."
About 140 immigrants apprehended at the border in Texas will be brought to the El Centro station for processing every three days. The next group is expected Saturday, according to Border Patrol union representative Lombardo Amaya.
After the migrants are processed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will decide who can be released while awaiting deportation proceedings.
Since October, the Rio Grande Valley in Texas has seen an unprecedented influx of unaccompanied children from Central America - mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala - illegally cross into the U.S. Many are fleeing violence and extortion from gangs in their homelands.
An estimated 52,193 unaccompanied children younger than 18 years old have been caught, overwhelming border facilities in Texas, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The U.S. government is also planning to fly migrants to Texas cities, and it has already taken some migrants to Arizona.
On Tuesday, flag-waving protesters at the Murrieta processing center blocked the street and forced the buses to make an unplanned detour to an undisclosed processing center in San Diego County.
Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., had harsh words Wednesday for the protesters in Murrieta.
"All of them should've been arrested and these buses should've been allowed to go into that federal facility," said Vargas, whose district covers El Centro.
The city of Coachella announced it will collect food, toys and medicine for the families that are being transported to Southern California.
"This is a humanitarian crisis and we need to help these children by showing compassion, giving them relief and treating them with dignity," Coachella Mayor Pro Tem Steven Hernandez said in a statement.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Democratic Assemblyman V. Manuel P√©rez of Coachella also issued statements on Wednesday condemning protesters in Murrieta and calling for immigration reform.
About 140 undocumented women and children are still expected to arrive at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station in Murrieta on Friday for processing despite the protests on Tuesday.
Ron Zermeno, a Border Patrol union representative who works as the Murrieta station's health and safety director, said he fears that protests "might be bigger" Friday due to Independence Day.
Zermeno expects the station's management to push for the busloads to arrive later in the day as a means to deter protesters.
Contributing: Ricardo Cano of the Desert Sun; The Associated Press
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
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