Officials in Murrieta, Calif., braced for another showdown with protesters in anticipation of a second group of immigrants expected to arrive Friday by bus for processing by the Border Patrol. Instead, they got dueling anti- and pro-immigration rallies.
A large crowd of protesters, both pro- and anti-immigrant, gathered at the Murrieta Border Patrol station, awaiting buses expected to bring 140 undocumented immigrants. By Friday evening, however, the crowd was thinning and there was no sign of the buses.
Because of security concerns, federal authorities have said they will not publicize immigrant transfers among border patrol facilities.
Protesters in Murrieta had blocked part of the first group of immigrant families to arrive at the Border Patrol station on Tuesday. The buses, carrying about 140 migrants, had to be detoured to an undisclosed location in San Diego.
On Friday, the crowd numbered about 120 at one point, about a third opposing illegal immigration and two thirds supporting immigrants. Shouting matches erupted, and police created a barrier separating supporters from protesters.
People in the crowd waved flags and banners. One banner read: "Proud LEGAL American. It doesn't work any other way." Another countered: "Against illegal immigration? Great! Go back to Europe!"
Late Friday, about 50 protesters remained near the entrance of the Border Patrol station -- an almost equal amount of protesters both for and against illegal immigration.
Murrieta police arrested five people after a fight between two women. One woman was arrested on suspicion of battery on an officer. The other four were arrested on suspicion of obstructing an officer in his investigation.
Earlier in the day, a person crossed the yellow tape that blocked protesters from the Border Patrol station entrance and was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and disobeying an officer.
Kelli Parrish-Lucas, an ordained minister from Escondido, arrived about 6 p.m. -- well after protests died down -- to "witness an event that's impacting our community."
"It's a juxtaposition to be celebrating freedom today when we're not treating people how we should be," said Parrish-Lucas, a supporter of the 140 women and children who are set to be processed in Murrieta.
Alberto Posadas also showed up with his two young nephews and other family members to show his support for the the undocumented immigrants.
"I'm here because I believe that we're a country based on laws," he said.
Posadas said it doesn't matter how the immigrants got here — the fact is they're here.
Meanwhile, Mike Silveira said he supports legal immigration but is worried about the undocumented immigrants that are coming into the country.
"I'm more worried about the people already here," he said. "I think we need to lock down our borders."
Silveira said his family immigrated legally from Portugal.
Murrieta resident Charles Godby was at the protest since 2 p.m. as part of the protest group opposing the undocumented immigrants' flight to Murrieta for processing.
The community of Murrieta has been billified and portrayed unfairly by the public in light of the protests that blocked three buses from entering the station for processing on Tuesday, he said.
"We're not racist. We're not violent. But we're not silent anymore," Godby said. "I have nothing against immigrants."
Anti- undocumented immigrant protesters decked in red, white and blue played "God Bless America" over speakers.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are transporting the immigrants to processing centers in California and elsewhere to ease overcrowded facilities in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, which has seen an unprecedented spike in illegal crossings since October.
Opponents of the transfer in Murrieta say they're afraid the influx of immigrants will drain local health, housing and medical resources and services.
On Wednesday, a group of immigrants was transferred without incident to the Border Patrol station in El Centro.
Since October, the Rio Grande Valley in Texas has seen an unprecedented influx of unaccompanied children from Central America — mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — illegally cross into the U.S. Many are fleeing violence and extortion from gangs in their homelands.
An estimated 52,193 unaccompanied children younger than 18 years old have been caught, overwhelming border facilities in Texas, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The U.S. government is also planning to fly migrants to Texas cities, and it has already taken some migrants to Arizona.
Contributing: The Associated Press