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July 5, 2014

California city becomes latest immigration flashpoint

MURRIETA, Calif. — Rumors had swirled among anti-immigration activists near a U.S. Border Patrol station in Southern California that the agency would try again to bus in some of the immigrants who have flooded across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Instead, they got dueling anti- and pro-immigration rallies Friday.

The crowd of 200 outside the station in Murrieta waved signs and sometimes shouted at each other. One banner read: “Proud LEGAL American. It doesn’t work any other way.” Another countered: “Against illegal immigration? Great! Go back to Europe!”

Law enforcement officers separated the two sides and contained them on one approach to the station, leaving open an approach from the opposite direction.

It was not certain, however, that any buses would arrive on Friday. Because of security concerns, federal authorities have said, they will not publicize immigrant transfers among border patrol facilities. By late afternoon many demonstrators were leaving.

Earlier this week, the city became the latest flashpoint in the intensifying immigration debate when a crowd of protesters waving American flags blocked buses carrying women and children who were flown from overwhelmed Texas facilities.

Federal authorities had hoped to process them at the station in Murrieta, about 55 miles north of downtown San Diego.

“This is a way of making our voices heard,” said Steve Prime, a resident of nearby Lake Elsinore. “The government’s main job is to secure our borders and protect us — and they’re doing neither.”

Immigration supporters said the immigrants need to be treated as humans and that migrating to survive is not a crime.

“We’re celebrating the 4th of July and what a melting pot America is,” said Raquel Alvarado, a high school history teacher and Murrieta resident who chalked up the fear of migrants in the city of roughly 106,000 to discrimination.

“They don’t want to have their kids share the same classroom,” she said.

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