As Immigration Crisis Grows, A Protest Movement Gains Steam | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

As Immigration Crisis Grows, A Protest Movement Gains Steam

Play associated audio

Anti-illegal immigration activists are planning several hundred protests in cities across the country on Friday and Saturday, part of a growing backlash against the federal government's efforts to temporarily house migrant children detained at the border.

Protesters say they are concerned about safety, as the Obama administration pushes to move detainees from Texas to shelters run by nonprofits in other states.

This week outside the southern Arizona town of Oracle, Marla and Bruce Bemis — along with several dozen of their neighbors — were lined up along a road waving American flags and holding signs, as patriotic music occasionally played in the background. Word had come that the federal government was planning to bring some of the detainees to a local academy for troubled youth.

"You know it's a shame that they're kids, if they're kids, but I guess their parents didn't care that much to send them on that journey to here," says Marla Bemis.

There's often an undercurrent of suspicion at protests like these. Most of the asylum seekers crossing the Texas border are kids without criminal backgrounds. Nevertheless, the Oracle protesters pledged to stand in the road to stop the buses, just as others did earlier this month in Murrieta, Calif. In Oracle, the buses didn't turn up.

One of the organizers of this movement against the government's plans is William Gheen, president of the North Carolina-based Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.

"We're the good guys and gals in this equation," says Gheen. "We're the American defenders that are standing with the current Constitution, the existing federal laws, and the current borders of the United States that are in peril here."

Gheen says protesters are relying on "whistleblowers" — people who work for federal agencies who have learned where the detainees are being sent.

Social media are also playing a big role in planning for the two days of nationwide protests that begin Friday, ranging from demonstrations in front of Mexican consulates in California and Arkansas to waving flags on highway overpasses in North Carolina.

"Then in November, we're going to throw so many illegal immigration or immigration reform amnesty supporters out of office, mostly Democrats, it'll make your head spin," Gheen says.

While there's a clear, larger political agenda at play, many protests are also being fueled by a resurgence in anti-federal-government sentiment noticeable in some parts of the country.

Still, not all of the opposition is coming from conservatives.

A bipartisan group of governors has expressed concerns about costs to states, the health of the children who are arriving, and whether Congress and the president will come up with a long-term plan.

And then you have local officials, some of whom say the federal government and its lack of communication aren't helping the situation.

Jeff Stone is chairman of the county commission in Riverside County, Calif., a large, suburban county east of Los Angeles. Murrieta is in the county, and Stone, a conservative Republican, is one of the local leaders who inspired the protests there.

"We still don't have communication from Border Patrol, whether there's going to be immigrants coming or not coming," he says. "We don't have any communication with ICE. So it's just been very disorganized."

Stone says his county was prepared to handle a couple of hundred migrants — any more than that would put a strain on local governments that are already struggling to provide services for residents.

"Listen, you can't blame these immigrants for trying to take their children and go someplace where they're not oppressed and not threatened by gangs and that such," he says. "You certainly cannot blame them for wanting to find a better life in this country."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Short List Of The Best 'Longform' Journalism Of 2014

Editors at Longform read hundreds of print and online journalism pieces each year. Co-founder Max Linsky talks to Audie Cornish about highlights from 2014, from literary stalwarts and upstarts alike.
NPR

Nutmeg Spice Has A Secret Story That Isn't So Nice

Nutmeg is a feel-good holiday spice. But it once caused serious bloodshed and may have even been a reason the Dutch were willing to part with Manhattan in the 1600s.
WAMU 88.5

Special Prosecutors Should Handle Civilian Shootings By Police, Holmes Norton Says

Norton says mayors and governors could stem anger over civilian shootings by police by appointing special prosecutors to handle them.
NPR

2014 Hashtags: #MuslimApologies Grew Out Of Both Anger And Whimsy

Maha Hilal helped launch #MuslimApologies partly as a rebuttal to the more earnest hashtag, #NotInOurName. She tells Audie Cornish how it reflects a divisive conversation in the Muslim community.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.