NEW YORK -- "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Then have a rabble of 300 protesters waving American flags block their path. Welcome to 21st century America, a land of opportunity… if you access the country legally.
This tense confrontation happened on Tuesday in Murrieta, California, with the mob, holding placards saying "return to sender" and shouting "go home – we don’t want you here", foiling a Homeland Security plan to move undocumented migrants, predominantly women and children from Central America, from facilities on the Texas-Mexico border to California to ease overcrowding.
The migrants were due to be processed in the Riverside County city US Customs and Border Protection facility before local residents forced the volte-face. Having been driven out of Murrieta, they were transfered to another facility in San Diego, close to the Mexican border.
Speaking to the Desert Sun newspaper, protester Nancy Greyson, 60, said: "We can't start taking care of others if we can't take care of our own." Thousands of migrants have flooded over the Mexican-US border in recent months, many hoping to escape violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, placing a strain on the processing facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.
The huge number of migrants trying to access the US has led to what President Obama has described as a "humanitarian crisis", with more than 50,000 unaccompanied children being detained as they attempted to cross from Mexico into Texas.
Even former vice-presidential Republican nominee Sarah Palin has spoken out, demanding that the "issue of young illegal aliens flooding across our border into horrendous conditions be taken care of. Now".
According to AP, Murrieta mayor Alan Long had told residents to complain about the plan to transfer the migrants to California in the days before the buses arrived.
Immigration has become a hugely divisive political issue in the US in recent years, with Congress refusing to act on much-needed immigration reform. Under the Obama presidency, increased resources have been sent to shore up border security, while an estimated 2 million migrants have been deported from the US under the current administration.