More Airlifted Detainees Expected As Immigration Reform Calls Mount

With a long holiday weekend ahead, quick political solutions to Southern California’s crisis involving detained Central American immigrants seem unlikely.

The polarized situation has sparked physical and emotional confrontations that have echoed nationwide.

So far, most of the controversial immigrants flown from Texas to San Diego and Imperial Counties have wound up in Representative Juan Vargas' 51st Congressional district.

Vargas doesn't want more busloads of women and children going into Riverside County, as three did Tuesday, and winding up blockaded by protesters.

"It's the first time in my life that I've seen federal agents have to back down from an angry mob, and that was awful to see,” says the first-term House Democrat. “It's not America, and it's not following the law."

Indications are that immigration officials will resume efforts to administratively process the detainees in Murrieta.

"We may need federal forces to control the mob that's saying the kids are the lawbreakers -- because the lawbreakers are now the mob,” Vargas told journalists Thursday after a mid-morning visit to the Border Patrol's Chula Vista Sector station in San Ysidro.

He had just met with detained immigrant families and children from Central America, more of whom are expected to arrive in the region in waves over two to three-day intervals.

According to Vargas, the ones driven to Murrieta on Tuesday were terrified by demonstrators blocking their buses, waving protest signs and shouting angry slogans while city police officers stood by.

He hopes future efforts to transport the immigrants to processing centers won’t meet with that kind of reception: “If it does, we should send in federal agents to do their job – however many we need … no one is above the law.”

Vargas said the detainees' unfortunate situation is being dictated by processing regulations under the so-called Wilberforce Act, a 2008 bipartisan law signed by then-President George W. Bush that's frustrating both President Obama and his critics.

Meantime, at UC San Diego Tuesday, a coalition of business, labor and agriculture leaders called on Congress to mobilize soon and pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

"Even a majority of Republicans favor fixing our broken immigration system,” said Ruben Barrales, president of the Latino Republican activist group Grow Elect and former San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO who previously served as governmental relations director in the Bush Administration.

“The obstacles facing reforms are bipartisan -- they always have been,” Barrales added. “The solutions need to be bipartisan as well."

Said Rep. Scott Peters (D-52nd District): "We see the confusion that's resulting right here in our county this week, with these children coming over because we don't have a system that makes sense to anybody. So let's get this reform done. Allow a vote -- we demand a vote -- and we demand a vote next week."

Vargas' two fellow Democrats and the two Republicans in San Diego County's Congressional delegation did not address his call for arresting demonstrators who interfere with federal agents.

Nor did they offer suggestions about the Wilberforce Act or other policy details.

A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-49th District) said the congressman spent the day touring Border Patrol facilities in Texas with the House Judiciary Committee chairman, where agents recommended "deterrence" as a solution to the crisis and said environmental rules are hampering their access to federal lands there.

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