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Immigration Protests Continue In California Town


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News - I'm Scott Simon. There's scores of immigration protests occurring across the country today on highway overpasses, city streets, in statehouse steps. It's the second day of such protests, organized by groups who are opposed to illegal immigration and specifically the Obama administration's efforts to temporarily house thousands of migrant children in some of their communities. On Friday some of the protests, like this one in Richmond, Virginia, were met by pro-immigration demonstrators and the wide divide of opinions over immigration clashed.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You came to my city and littered. You came to the city...

SIMON: But in other places like Murrieta, California, the town that in some ways started these protests - things were quieter, as Nathan Rott reports.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Protest is a bit of a strong word for a changing roster of about six people, sheltering from the sun under pop-up tents outside of the Murrieta border patrol station. Really it's more like a like-minded meet up, surrounded by a border of American flags and anti-immigration signs. Carlene Brown kind of sums up the collective mood.

CARLENE BROWN: So this is it? Dang it.

ROTT: It's a far cry from the scene at this same place a couple of weeks ago when a crowd of about 200 angry protesters turned back three buses of immigrant detainees that were bound for the neighboring border patrol station. That day, pro-immigration groups manned the other side of the road yelling back. Five people were arrested and most of it was caught on camera, thrusting sleepy Murrieta into the national spotlight and into the middle of the immigration debate.

JOHN HUNNEMAN: The national issue kind of came to a boil there in Murrieta.

ROTT: John Hunneman is a columnist with the Press Enterprise - a local newspaper. He watched as the protests spread and as Twitter, Facebook and a syndicated political cartoonist started calling Murrieta Hate Town, USA. The latter depicting it in a cartoon as a giant shark lunging, jaws wide at a migrant child.

HUNNEMAN: It's being called Hate City and a lot of really negative things and it isn't.

ROTT: Hunneman says it's no different from most cities in the country.

HUNNEMAN: Well, a lot of cities in the country - if there was a border patrol station there, the same thing would've happened there because this is a very passionate issue.

ROTT: That's the line area officials are taking. Jeff Stone is the chairman of the county's commission.

JEFF STONE: I don't think we're haters. I think we're philanthropic and want to help.

ROTT: He says the problem is with the federal government and the Obama administration, which didn't consult with local officials before planning to move the detainees there.

STONE: They throw these human beings on us without any plan, if you will, of how they're going to be taking care of and that's been the frustration for us at the local level.

ROTT: Regardless, many in the town of about 100,000 still look at the protests like George Cortes.

GEORGE CORTES: It's actually kind of embarrassing now for me living in the area, you know.

ROTT: Cortes is with his family at a local restaurant. He and other patrons say they're embarrassed, ashamed, sad that their city is being associated with hate.

CORTES: I'm not surprised that there's people like that here.

ROTT: And, he says, it's a very impassioned issue. You want proof? Just look at the protests occurring all over the country and another one scheduled in Murrieta later today. For NPR News, I'm Nathan Rott in Murrieta, California. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.