But plans to bring the immigrants to a Border Patrol outpost in Murrieta, 60 miles (97 km) north of San Diego, sparked an outcry from town mayor Alan Long, who said the migrants posed a public safety threat to his community, as Reuters informing.
The group is part of a growing wave of families and unaccompanied minors fleeing the strife-torn countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras and streaming by the thousands into the United States by way of human trafficking networks through Mexico.
Most have shown up in Texas, overwhelming detention and processing facilities there.
The surge has left US immigration officials scrambling to handle mass numbers of Central American migrants who, by law, the government cannot immediately deport, as they normally could illegal border crossers of Mexican or Canadian origin.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied children from Central America have been caught trying to sneak over the US-Mexico border since October, double the number from the same period the year before, according to US Customs and Border Protection figures. Thousands more were apprehended with their parents.
The group caught up in Tuesday’s confrontation arrived by plane at midday in San Diego from Texas, where they were recently apprehended while trying to cross the border, and were put on three unmarked buses for the ride to Murrieta.
As the caravan neared its destination, a group of 150 protesters waving American flags and shouting “Go home – we don’t want you here,” filled a street leading to the access road for the Border Patrol station, blocking the buses from reaching the facility.
The demonstrators disregarded orders shouted by local police to disperse, but officers did not attempt to intervene physically to break up the demonstration.
After about 25 minutes, the buses backed up, turned around and left. A board member of the union representing border patrol agents, Chris Harris, said the buses would likely be rerouted to one of six other Border Patrol stations in the San Diego sector.
Lois Haley, a spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, declined to say where the buses were headed. “For the security of everybody … we’re just not saying anything about any contingency plans now.”
A separate group of undocumented families with children was being sent on Tuesday to a similar processing facility in El Centro, California, a desert community about 100 miles (160 km) east of San Diego, US immigration officials said. But there was no word on any disruptions of their arrival