SAN DIEGO - A flight carrying migrants from overcrowded facilities on the Texas border with Mexico arrived Tuesday in Southern California as part of the federal government's efforts to deal with a flood of unaccompanied Central American children coming to the United States.
A Department of Homeland Security official in California told The Associated Press that the chartered plane landed in San Diego after 12 p.m. with 136 migrants on board. The official was not authorized to be named when speaking on the issue.
The migrants will be bused to a border patrol facility in Murrieta, about an hour north of San Diego, for processing. Federal immigration authorities there will determine whether they will be held or released pending deportation proceedings.
A day before Tuesday's flight, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long said police in his city are ready for any security issues, and a mobile hospital unit will be positioned outside the facility to provide additional medical screening if needed. He acknowledged that migrants would not be released locally and do not have criminal records, but still urged residents in the suburb of 107,000 people near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base to call their elected officials and voice opposition to the plan.
U.S. authorities announced last week that Central American migrants would be flown from the Rio Grande Valley to Texas cities and Southern California. The plan is intended to help relieve a crunch caused when thousands of people arrived at the border fleeing violence and extortion from gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
More than 52,000 children have been detained after crossing the Texas-Mexico border since October in what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis.
Many of the migrants are under the impression that they will receive leniency from U.S. authorities.
Another flight was expected to take 140 migrants to a facility in El Centro, California, on Wednesday, said Lombardo Amaya, president of the El Centro chapter of the Border Patrol union. The Border Patrol would not confirm that arrival date.
The federal government is also flying migrants to the Texas border cities of Laredo and El Paso and Arizona for processing.