A California Assembly member representing a town that has become a flashpoint for a mass exodus of young immigrants into the country called on Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday to offer more information and resources to handle the situation.
Protests in the town of Murrieta, prompted by busloads of immigrants passing through the town en route to shelter, have displayed mounting anger on both edges of the debate. Demonstrators on one side have sought to turn back the buses and condemned illegal immigration. On the other side are protesters emphasizing the humanity of youths fleeing violence and poverty.
Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, represents Murrieta in the Legislature. On Wednesday she exhorted Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not publicly outlined a plan for dealing with the immigration surge, to come to her district’s aid and to provide a broader plan.
“My plea to the governor is find out what the end date is,” Melendez said, adding she has been told by the U.S. Border Patrol that buses will pass through Murietta every 72 hours. “What’s the strategy?”
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Potential responses Melendez mentioned include more money to deal with the caravan of buses and Brown declaring a state of emergency.
“Right now we need the resources to handle what’s going on,” said Melendez, who also sent Brown asking the governor to obtain more information from the Department of Homeland Security and to “immediately assess and make available state resources to ensure that public safety does not continue to be threatened by this deliberate, federal blunder.”
“Local government, including the County of Riverside, the City of Murrieta and it’s surrounding municipalities, were not given the time or resources to necessary to prepare to service such a massive influx,” the letter reads.
Melendez’s remarks marked the second consecutive day state lawmakers spotlighted the issue. On Tuesday, several Democratic lawmakers toured a Ventura County military base that has been converted into temporary housing and called upon President Obama to move decisively.
Obama has proposed spending $3.7 billion to handle the situation, though that package would need to advance through a Congress that has been fiercely divided over immigration policy.
Because the federal government enacts and carries out immigration policy, California is not responsible for transporting or caring for the immigrant minors. An official with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services said the Brown administration has been coordinating with law enforcement.
“While this situation remains the primary responsibility of the federal government, our office continues to work closely with both federal and local law enforcement officials," chief deputy director Nancy Ward said in an emailed statement. "In fact, long before today’s press conference, local (California Highway Patrol) officers assisted with limited crowd and traffic control at the request of local officials. We will continue to offer assistance to local law enforcement as it’s needed.”
Editor’s Note: This post was updated with the Brown administration’s response at 4:45 p.m. July 9, 2014.