Not in my backyard: Communities protest surge of immigrant kids

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WASHINGTON -- In places such as Murrieta, Calif., and Oracle, Ariz., the message is clear: The thousands of immigrant children fleeing Central America are unwelcome in Small Town USA.

The children, many of them unaccompanied from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, have traveled up to 3,000 miles across deserts and rivers, clinging to the tops of trains.

They sometimes face rape and beatings at the hands of "coyotes," smugglers paid thousands of dollars to sneak them across the southern border with Mexico.

Upon arrival, they face scenes such as the one earlier this month in Murrieta, where busloads of babies in their mothers' laps, teens, 'tweens and toddlers were turned back from a detainee facility.

They were met by screaming protesters waving and wearing American flags and bearing signs that read such things as "Return to Sender."

And so it goes. Southwest border towns, West Coast suburbs and middle American enclaves have become the newest battleground in the vitriolic political debate over immigration.

Some have volunteered to host and welcome the new arrivals into their homes and houses of worship. Others have mounted grassroots campaigns to stymie them, citing concerns that some are gang members or have disease, worries the Department of Health and Human Services is working to allay.

The ensuing showdowns highlight the scope and depth of challenges the Obama administration is grappling with as officials try to use immigration-related fixes to resolve what politicians on both sides of the aisle have called "a humanitarian crisis."

The Midwest

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told WHO on Monday that he does not want federal officials to send Central American children to his state, adding that by accepting them the United States is sending "a signal to send kids illegally."

Some local aid groups are appalled.

"My God. This is a humanitarian crisis," said Kathleen McQuillen, the Iowa Program Director of American Friends Service Committee.

McQuillen's group, a Quaker-based organization, questions how the country could spend trillions on war and not have the pennies on those dollars to spend to take care of children in dire need.

She said, "It's a simple thing to begin to say, what's important in this world?"

At a National Governors Association meeting in Nashville earlier this month, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman complained that federal officials did not notify him that they were placing hundreds of immigrant children with family members in his state.

The Southwest

In Oracle, Ariz., a town of roughly 3,700, protesters gathered at Sycamore Canyon Academy, a nearby boys ranch being used as a temporary housing facility for the immigrant minors, as early as 7 a.m. on Tuesday, according to KOLD.

Protesters were expected to spend all day there and planned to block a bus filled with kids from entering. A local tea party group is also organizing a protest.

"These children should be returned to their home country -- not to Oracle, Ariz., paid for by American taxpayers," Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said in a statement on the department's Facebook page.

A separate group, which gathered at the Southside Presbyterian Church earlier in the day, headed to site of the protests and is planning to welcome the children when they arrive.

In Artesia, N.M., hundreds of residents turned out for a contentious town hall to decry the hundreds of women and children being housed at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, a facility that also trains Border Patrol agents, according to KOAT.

Protestors in Waco, Texas, meanwhile, are demanding better conditions for the 250 men from El Salvador being held at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, according to KCEN.

And the League City, Texas, City Council approved a proposal banning the housing or detention of undocumented immigrants within the city at a recent meeting, according to KHOU.

The South

Federal officials shelved plans to send the children to an unoccupied, historically black college campus in Lawrenceville, Va., a small community of about 1,400, after nearly the entire town showed up at a meeting and furiously denounced the proposal.

"Our staff will immediately cease any further activities in your community," Mark Greenberg, the Department of Health and Human Services, the acting assistant secretary for children and families, wrote the community in June.

The West

In sharp contrast to the reception similar children received in Murrieta, Central American immigrant children have been welcomed by the community of Fontana, Calif.

Just more than 40 immigrants on Homeland Security buses arrived at the St. Joseph's Catholic Church there on Thursday and were greeted by staff and community donations of food, clothing and toys, according to KTLA.

And a group of California state lawmakers headed to Central American on Monday to discuss he surge of immigrant children with leaders from that region, according to KCRA.

And on Monday, the United States government deported the first group of what authorities promise will be many more -- about 40 mothers and children. They flew to Honduras on a charter flight.

Despite the perils of their journey to the United States and their failed attempt to stay, one woman plans to make the trek again. There is nothing left for them at home, she said.


  • Anonymous

    WELCOME HOME TO ALL, lets give them a break need to work save up $ and then they will return back to their home town they just trying to make a better life for there loved ones that stood behind
    some are here to get better schooling they are not here to take over, so welcome to America :)

  • Test

    Obama, had no trouble keeping WWII vets from their memorial, or citizens from their parks, but he can’t seem to keep illegal immigrants from walking, swimming or crawling across the border.

    • maria

      I’m glad I’m not as IGNORANT and closed minded as you Ryan are you this racist everyday? What a stupid thing to say, I believe you should go ahead and research a little bit more about how exactly America got started. The problem doesn’t lie within these children and immigrants they are not here to take over in any way but to better their lives and if someone is worried about losing their job well maybe they aren’t performing at their best. It’s inhumane to treat humans this way let alone children. I suggest you think before you open your mouth next time buddy!

  • Kevin

    why doesn’t the government and butthead Obummer fix the problems with the healthcare, getting treatment for the veterans, and helping the homeless before adding to the problems. Its almost like he has ADHD



  • imadethisupmyself

    Grind them all into a paste, send it back south, and call it humanitarian aid for the starving. Let them battle each other to the death, and the last one standing gets to apply for citizenship.

  • unknown

    My Husband has been working in Colorado for the past 15 years. He has a work permit from Canada. We recently got married because we love each other. We went to an Immigration Attorney that informed us that because the work permit has a different company name than the one he came to Colorado on he is unable to work for this new company for 90 days while they apply for a new work permit.
    So we are going to allow kids across the border, feed them, house them, and give them everything they want in life and my husband cant even work. I have either had to much to drink or I am being stupid because I just don’t understand.

  • Anonymous

    We will feed and house and send money to the children in africa. But we can not help these men women and children why? What is so diffrent about them?

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