The slow moving road to immigration reform picked up momentum in the wrong direction this week as a potential showdown between California and Texas erupted.
Texas lawmakers, faced with a barrage of illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican-U.S. border, and not a clue about what to do with them; Latinos who support them; and Californians who oppose them, has turned into one big, ugly mess.
"I’m getting hundreds of phone calls," said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona). "They should handle this problem in Texas. The anger is growing." The Congressman said Wednesday that his constituents are extremely upset over busloads of immigrant detainees entering the California border from Texas.
On Tuesday, Murietta, which lies in Calvert’s district, was the scene of a massive protest, in which opponents blocked a Border Patrol facility. The confrontation is the latest symptom to erupt from of an out-of-control influx of illegal immigrants. Members of the Latino community verbally squared off with residents opposed to illegal immigration in front of the U.S. Border Patrol office.
Furious protestors made a bus headed for Murietta with about 140 detainees turn around and return to San Diego. Passengers had been flown in from Texas.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) is not as concerned about where the immigrants came from, as why they are here.
"The buses the protesters tried to stop weren’t filled with dangerous criminals," she said. "They were carrying women and children, many of whom fled their homes in Central America to escape violence and death."
She called for them to be treated with human dignity and have access to “basic due process” while they are in government custody.
Calvert and the protestors are concerned that the immigrants will be let loose in California. Since October 2013, more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the border illegally. Government officials are at a loss over how to handle the situation.
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) doesn’t like the fact that children who crossed the border are being housed at Ft. Sill in his district. "You don't bring outsiders onto a military installation who have no business being there," he recently said on the House floor.
Calvert, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, is looking for possible solutions. He is concerned the crisis will divert border control agents away from the tasks of catching drug smugglers; and that detainees will put a drain on economic resources in his hard hit Inland Empire cities. If immigrants are sent to Murrieta, Calvert said, he wants Riverside County to be permitted to set up a mobile clinic to provide health screenings, treatment and immunizations.
Calvert will be responding to President Obama’s request for more than $2 billion to manage the numbers of children illegally crossing the Southwest border alone.