PORT HUENEME (CBSLA.com) — The immigration battle that sparked last week’s standoff at a Murrieta processing facility has spread to Ventura County.
KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen reports dozens of people rallied Tuesday outside the Port Hueneme Naval Base, where 575 undocumented immigrants ages 13-17 have been detained since last month.
The demonstration was in support of the detainees and followed a group of local clergy members toured the facility to see the children.
“They have nice beds. They have food every day. They have opportunities to learn some skills for living in this country,” said Minerva Cacaño of the United Methodist Church.
The detainees crossed the United States border from Central America.
Their entry into the U.S. is sparking protests similar to those who greeted busloads of immigrants last week in Murrieta.
“I feel sorry for kids, but I think it’s the wrong way to go. We’re actually encouraging them to come and for their parents to send them here. And it’s a treacherous journey for them to get here,” Port Hueneme resident Joan Dawson said.
A handful of state senators and Assembly members also toured the facility Tuesday.
They say the children are in a regimented program that includes English classes.
“Our goal is for family reunification. It serves no one to have a child in a detention center more than two weeks,” said State Sen. Kevin de León, elected president pro tempore.
“This is a very controversial issue. But one thing is we have to be very clear. This is America and children are off the table. They’re off limits. It’s that simple.”
KNX1070’s Megan Goldsby reports recent protests in Murrieta have proven the anti-immigration sentiment don’t always care about age.
“They’re breaking our laws, and they’re patting them on the back and saying, ‘Sure, Come on in!’ ” Oxnard resident Kathy Miller said.
“To me, that sounds like overcrowding of our schools, our medical facilities. Everything within the community is going to be a tax now. Heavier. And that’s going to cost everybody,” resident Robert Miller added.
Their voices were by far the minority at the Port Hueneme rally, however.
“They’re not going to change, even if we engage them,” Cesar Vega Margione said of protesters. “What we want is people to focus on the fact that these people are suffering.”
Many of the children in Port Hueneme have parents who live in Southern California.
The clergy members have been told about 85 percent of the kids being detained there will be released to their relatives in the coming weeks.
If detainees are released to their families, they will be required to go through the deportation process and will incur the associated legal costs.