As Immigration Crisis Grows, A Protest Movement Gains Steam Several hundred protests will begin Friday in cities across the country, as activists rail against the Obama administration's efforts to temporarily house migrant children detained at the border.
NPR logo

As Immigration Crisis Grows, A Protest Movement Gains Steam

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
As Immigration Crisis Grows, A Protest Movement Gains Steam

As Immigration Crisis Grows, A Protest Movement Gains Steam

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. Across the country, several hundred protests are planned for tomorrow and Saturday. It's all part of the backlash against efforts to find places to hold migrant children detained at the border. Many of the children are trying to enter through Texas, and the Obama administration is pushing to move them to temporary shelters in other states. The protesters say they're concerned about safety, as NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Go to a local protest against the movement of immigrant detainees, and you can bet you'll find people like Marla and Bruce Bemis. The couple has no shortage of concerns about the sharp rise in Central American minors trying to get into the U.S..

MARLA BEMIS: Oh, boy. Come on, Bruce.

BRUCE BEMIS: Health, diseases, you know, criminality.

SIEGLER: This week, the Bemis's and several dozen of their neighbors were lined up along a road outside the southern Arizona town of Oracle, waving American flags and holding signs. 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.

M. BEMIS: 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.

SIEGLER: 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 protesters in Oracle pledge to stand in the road to stop the buses, just as others did earlier this month in Murieta, California. In Oracle, the buses didn't turn up. But it was the latest showdown in what's become a growing backlash against the federal government's plans to temporarily house migrants in states outside Texas. One of the organizers of this movement is William Gheen. He's president of the North Carolina-based pack Americans for Legal Immigration.

WILLIAM GHEEN: We're the good guys and gals of this equation. 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.

SIEGLER: Gheen says protesters are relying on so-called whistleblowers to coordinate - people who work for federal agencies, who've learned where the detainees are being sent. Social media is also playing a big role in planning for two days of nationwide protests that begin tomorrow, ranging from demonstrations in front of Mexican consulates in California and Arkansas, to flag waving on highway overpasses in North Carolina.

GHEEN: 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.

SIEGLER: So there's a clear, larger political agenda at play. Many protests are also being fueled by a resurgence in anti-federal government sentiment 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 isn't helping the situation.

JEFF STONE: We still don't have communication from Border Patrol - whether there's going to be immigrants coming or not coming. We don't have any communication with ICE. So it's just been, you know, very disorganized.

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

STONE: 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. You certainly cannot blame them for wanting to find a better life in this country.

SIEGLER: Stone says this county was prepared to handle a couple hundred migrants. But any more than that would put a strain on local governments that are already struggling to provide services for residents. The coordinated protests, which include several in Murrieta, begin earlier tomorrow morning. Kirk Siegler, NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.