More than 100 demonstrators forced buses full of immigrants to be rerouted from Murrieta, California nearly 70 miles south while hurling derisive chants toward them, KFMB-TV reported on Tuesday.
The protesters chanted “U-S-A, U-S-A,” and “Go back home” at the caravan, which was originally headed to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Murrieta carrying 140 undocumented immigrants, many of them women and children, who had entered the country after journeying from Central America. Federal officials put them on the buses after they were flown into San Diego from Texas earlier in the day.
“Send them back to their countries,” one unidentified male protester told KFMB. “Send them back to where they came from.”
It’s not clear if the demonstrators realized, however, that the purpose of facilities like the one in Murrieta is to help authorities prepare to send the immigrants leave the U.S., and to account for individuals who could pose flight risks. But because the protesters blocked the buses, they were shuttled out of the area and taken to a similar center in San Ysidro, close to the U.S.-Mexico border, where they arrived late Tuesday afternoon.
“This was a victory for the American people,” another protester was quoted as saying.
A spokesperson for the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing more than 1,000 agency personnel, criticized the decision to reroute the caravan.
“They should’ve been off the bus already,” Ron Zermeno told KNSD-TV. “These poor people have been traveling all day. Now, the Border Patrol management has decided to keep them on a bus, it’s ridiculous.”
A smaller group of protesters at the Murrieta facility, however, held up signs saying “Americans are immigrants” in support of the group of Central Americans, with some engaging in arguments with the anti-immigrant group.
“If these were Canadian children, we would not be having this interview right now, and that’s a fact,” said Enrique Morones, whose advocacy group, Border Angels, had prepared packages containing donated food and toiletries for the immigrants.
Watch KFMB’s report, as aired on Tuesday, below.