This has been a difficult week in the city of Murrieta. We have been challenged and in some ways we fell down in the face of the challenge. We have been both celebrated and vilified locally and in the national press — and mostly based on inaccurate interpretations of the same issue. On Monday, Mayor Long gave a press conference. During that press conference he recognized people’s right to peaceful protest. He also expressed frustration with the federal immigration policy that appears to be encouraging women and children from Central America to migrate to the US via the Rio Grande Valley. He recognized that immigration is the responsibility of the federal government, but was concerned that the Murrieta Border Patrol station would be receiving 140 women and children every 72 hours for processing. This facility is not appropriate for that purpose – it is essentially a jail, designed to hold drug runners and criminals caught at the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-15 just south of Temecula. When Mayor Long expressed frustration with the federal government and recommended protest, he was suggesting that concerned citizens contact their US Representatives and the President to share their thoughts. To that end, a list of federal offices, Members of Congress representing our area and the White House phone numbers were compiled on a list that was shared at the press conference.
Sadly, too many people took this as encouragement to protest the arrival of buses carrying the women and children to the Border Patrol station in Murrieta. Protesters came from around the southland to oppose the arrival of undocumented immigrants to Murrieta for processing. In the face of the protest, three buses were turned around and the protesters claimed victory. This was not victory. It was a loss for the city of Murrieta, for the community that we live in and love. It made this extremely compassionate community look heartless and uncaring. That is NOT the Murrieta that we all know and love.
There appear to be two sides to this issue – those who believe Mayor Long was encouraging them to stand in front of the buses in protest, and those who believe that Murrieta does not recognize that the US is the envy of the world and that people want to migrate here, even at the risk of their lives and the lives of their children. Both sides are wrong. We understand that people want to come to the US to seek a better life for their families, and we are a compassionate people who want to help. But we also are a country whose legal system is based on the rule of law, and the people migrating must do so within the boundaries of the law. The protests resulting from the incorrect interpretations of Mayor Long’s comments have given our community a black eye.
To be clear, the City of Murrieta’s primary role is public safety. Our police department has been out in force to protect the lives and the rights of those individuals who have chosen to protest. We are proud of our police department knowing that they have done an outstanding job of maintaining the peace.
Beyond that, we recognize that there is a battle in play between the Congress and the President over immigration. True, this is a federal issue and should be resolved at the federal level. But it is affecting our community is a very real and ugly way. This brings us back to Mayor Long’s original message – we should be contacting our US Representatives and the President and letting them know that their failure to resolve this issue has damaged our community, and not only ours, but communities throughout the southwestern US. We should be encouraging them to begin a dialogue – a dialogue that we are very ready to be part of.
And above all, we should show everyone what a truly compassionate and caring community Murrieta is!