Arizona protesters hope to stop immigrant transfer

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by Astrid Galvan/Associated Press

Video report by Dennis Welch, 3TV Political Editor

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 6:45 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 17 at 2:40 PM

ORACLE, Ariz. (AP) -- Protesters carrying "Return to Sender" and "Go home non-Yankees" signs faced off with immigrant rights activists Tuesday in a small Arizona town after a sheriff said a bus filled with Central American children was on its way.

The rallies demonstrated the deep divide of the immigration debate as groups on both sides - and in similar numbers - showed up in Oracle to speak out on the issue.

It turned heated at times, with shouting matches and a group of mariachi musicians getting shoved before the skirmishes were quelled. At one point, protesters temporarily blocked off a bus on the road before realizing it was just a school bus carrying children from a YMCA.

The protests came as the government released new numbers that show how many immigrant families and children have been pouring into the country in recent months. The Border Patrol says 55,420 family members have been caught at the border from October through the end of June, a nearly 500 percent increase from the same period in the previous year. The number includes adults apprehended with their young children, and most of them were caught in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. In addition, the Border Patrol says 57,525 unaccompanied children have been apprehended through the end of June.

Anger has been spreading in the town of Oracle since Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu warned residents last week that immigrant children from Central America caught crossing the border illegally would be placed at the Sycamore Canyon Academy in Oracle. Protesters were hoping to mirror demonstrations in Murrieta, California, when immigrants were taken there recently.

"We are not going to tolerate illegals forced upon us," protester Loren Woods said.

Babeu is credited with stirring up the anti-immigrant protesters via social media postings and a press release Monday and by leaking information about the migrants' arrival to a local activist.

He addressed both sides of the protesters, asking them to remain civil, abide by the law and keep the roads cleared. Immigrant rights activists questioned Babeu about why he is stirring up protesters when he should be bringing order as the county's top lawman.

Babeu said he was simply informing the public and was at the site to make sure the protests on both sides were peaceful.

"All this was done in secrecy, and that's where a lot of people are upset," Babeu said Tuesday. "My concern (is) where's the federal government? Why are they not here? Why did they not hold a town hall to answer some of these questions?"

The academy put out a press release Monday acknowledging that it had an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services to take in a "small number" of immigrant children from Central America. It did not specify how many and when they would arrive. No children had arrived as of early evening.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who represents southern Arizona, said the congressman's office was told by the federal government that children would not be arriving Tuesday.

A spokesman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services said the agency would not identify the locations of shelters for migrants to protect their identities and safety.

The dueling groups in Oracle had a combined 130 people at the peak of the protests, including about 80 rallying against the shipment of immigrants and 50 taking the opposing viewpoint. Pro-immigrant supporters held welcome signs with drawings of hearts.

Emily Duwel of Oracle said she did not want her town to be misrepresented by what she said was a minority of people against the children being housed here.

"I'm just concerned about these children who have had to escape worlds of incredible violence," Duwel said.

Babeu has generated controversy in the past over his immigration rhetoric. When five bodies were found in a burned-out SUV in his county in 2012, Babeu quickly declared that the killings appeared to be the work of a drug cartel. A few days later, it was learned that it was a murder-suicide of a suburban Phoenix family and not drug-related.

A massive surge in unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally began more than a month ago, turning the issue into a major political debate in Washington and in cities across the U.S.

In a state known for its strict immigration laws, including SB1070, which many call the "show me your papers" law, attitudes are just as contentious.

The fallout began in late May when reports surfaced that immigration officials were dropping off hundreds of women and children at Phoenix and Tucson Greyhound bus stations after they had been caught crossing the border illegally. Within a week, immigration authorities were flying hundreds of children who had crossed the border into Texas alone to be processed at various immigration facilities.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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ORACLE, Ariz. (AP) -- Dozens of protesters on both sides of the immigration debate showed up in a small town near Tucson on Tuesday after the sheriff said the federal government plans to transport about 40 immigrant children to an academy for troubled youths.

The rallies demonstrated the deep divide of the immigration debate. One group waved American flags, held signs that read "Return to Sender" and "Go home non-Yankees" and said they would block a bus that was supposed to arrive with immigrant children aboard. A few miles up the road, pro-immigrant supporters held welcome signs with drawings of hearts. The dueling groups each had about 50 people.

"We are not going to tolerate illegals forced upon us," protester Loren Woods said.

Emily Duwel of Oracle said she did not want her town to be misrepresented by what she said was a minority of people against the children being housed here.

"I'm just concerned about these children who have had to escape worlds of incredible violence," Duwel said.

Anger has been spreading in the town of Oracle since Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu warned residents last week that immigrant children from Central America caught crossing the border illegally would be placed at the Sycamore Canyon Academy in Oracle. Protesters were hoping to mirror demonstrations in Murrieta, California, when immigrants were taken there recently.

Babeu is credited with stirring up the anti-immigrant protesters via social media postings and a press release Monday and by leaking information about the migrants coming to a local activist.

He addressed both sides of the protesters, asking them to remain civil, abide by the law and keep the roads cleared.

Babeu says he is concerned about public safety because he does not know whether any of the migrant children are gang affiliated or have health issues. He said that reports of health issues are likely overblown.

Babeu has generated controversy in the past over his immigration rhetoric. When five bodies were found in a burned-out SUV in his county in 2012, Babeu quickly declared that the killings appeared to be the work of a drug cartel. A few days later, it was learned that it was a murder-suicide of a suburban Phoenix family and not drug-related.

"All this was done in secrecy and that's where a lot of people are upset," Babeu said Tuesday. "My concern (is) where's the federal government? Why are they not here? Why did they not hold a town hall to answer some of these questions?"

Calls to the academy where the children were supposed to be housed were not returned. A spokesman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services said the agency would not identify the locations of shelters for migrants to protect their identities and security.

"We don't know who they are. We don't know their health conditions. We don't know a doggone thing because the federal government isn't telling us anything," protest organizer Robert Skiba said.

Anger has been spreading since a massive surge in unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally began more than a month ago. Though largely considered a humanitarian crisis, the influx of immigrants has also become political fodder.

In a state known for its strict immigration laws, including SB1070, which many call the "show me your papers" law, attitudes are just as contentious.

The fallout began in late May when reports surfaced that immigration officials were dropping off hundreds of women and children at Phoenix and Tucson Greyhound bus stations after they had been caught crossing the border illegally.

Within a week, immigration authorities were flying hundreds of children who had crossed the border into Texas alone to the Border Patrol facility in Nogales. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer sharply criticized the move and demanded it stop. Republican candidates for governor have also chimed in. Some are expected to attend the rally on Tuesday.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Protesters in a small town near Tucson want to send a message about the immigration debate Tuesday, when they plan to block a bus they believe will be transporting about 40 immigrant children to an academy for troubled youths in Oracle, Arizona.

The protests will mirror those in Murrieta, California, which gained national attention this month when the city's mayor and residents blocked buses carrying immigrant children who were going to be processed there.

In Oracle, anger has been spreading since Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu warned residents last week that immigrant children from Central America caught crossing the border illegally into the U.S. would be placed at the Sycamore Canyon Academy in Oracle. The academy houses troubled youth, many of whom have been through the criminal justice system.

Calls to the academy were not returned. A spokesman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services said the agency could not identify the locations of shelters for migrants in order to protect their identities and security.

"We don't know who they are. We don't know their health conditions. We don't know a doggone thing because the federal government isn't telling us anything," protest organizer Robert Skiba said.

Anger has been spreading since a massive surge in unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally began more than a month ago. Though largely considered a humanitarian crisis, the influx of immigrants has also become political fodder.

In a state known for its strict immigration laws, including SB1070, which many call the "show me your papers" law, attitudes are just as contentious.

The fallout began in late May when reports surfaced that immigration officials were dropping off hundreds of women and children at Phoenix and Tucson Greyhound bus stations after they had been caught crossing the border illegally.

Within a week, immigration authorities were flying hundreds of children who had crossed the border into Texas alone to be housed at the Border Patrol facility in Nogales. Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, sharply criticized the move and demanded it stop. Republican candidates for governor have also chimed in. Some are expected to attend the rally on Tuesday.

But the children, if they arrive as expected, will not only be met by angry faces. Immigrant-rights groups are also planning to attend and counter-protest.

"They are using fear and hatred in hopes of generating demonstrations similar to recent events in Murrieta, California," said the Latino civil rights group Somos America. The group added that it "condemns those actions and seeks to provide a peaceful alternative to the fear-based panic which is being caused by the recklessness of tea party agitators and Sheriff Paul Babeu."

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