Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Send U.S. marshals to the border

By Ruben Navarrette
updated 1:49 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
A protester against buses carrying immigrants, right, faces off with a pro-immigration protester in Murrieta, Calfornia, on July 4.
A protester against buses carrying immigrants, right, faces off with a pro-immigration protester in Murrieta, Calfornia, on July 4.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: Obama needs to send U.S. marshals to protect women, kids at border
  • Federal law enforcement relocation operation met with protests in Murrieta, California
  • On July 4, Border Patrol tricked the anti-immigration protesters by going somewhere else
  • The faces in Murrieta reminded Navarrette of white Southerners blocking desegregation

(CNN) -- President Obama needs to send U.S. marshals to Southern California. They can protect the Central American women and children whom the federal government has sent out West, with more due to arrive every 72 hours under an immigrant redistribution plan hatched by the Obama administration.

The next group of immigrants is expected to arrive on July 7.

The marshals could ensure that nobody interferes with this federal law enforcement operation, as was done last week by angry protesters in Murrieta, California, a small town in southwest Riverside County, about 70 miles north of San Diego. It was there that the Border Patrol had planned to process about 140 women and children who had, just a few hours earlier, arrived on a plane from South Texas.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border since October.

I've written about immigration for 25 years and, from my many visits to the U.S.-Mexico border, and the tours I've taken with Border Patrol agents in Arizona, Texas and California, I know this much: The war against immigrant smugglers is a battle of wits and a contest of wills.

In managing the border children crisis, the Border Patrol recently showed wits. Now, by sending in the marshals, Obama can demonstrate the will.

Last week, on the Fourth of July, Border Patrol agents avoided some unpleasant fireworks by outsmarting dozens of those who are against the buses and those who aren't. Both crowds had descended on Murrieta anticipating a repeat of what had happened three days earlier, when the group protesting the arrivals blocked and turned around three Department of Homeland Security buses carrying the women and children.

In both protests, Murrieta police officers were on the scene. But during the first one, they were worthless. They should have arrested those protesters who blocked Border Patrol buses and forced them to retreat. They were better during the sequel, and, in fact, arrested a handful of people. While the dueling crowds were facing off in Murrieta, the Border Patrol took a detour from the airport and transported the immigrants to another processing center in San Ysidro, about 15 miles south of San Diego.

There will likely be more protests in California over the next few weeks. If things get out of hand, someone could get hurt. That's why we need U.S. marshals, to prevent that from happening.

I shouldn't have to make federal case out of this, because it already is one. It's a federal policy that lets these children stay in the United States with relatives. They're in the custody of a federal agency, in a federal law enforcement vehicle, driven by federal law enforcement officers. It's the federal government's job to protect its personnel and the people being transported and to ensure that this operation is not sidetracked by mob rule, even if that means arresting those who get in the way.

The images coming out of Murrieta reminded me of another group of protesters intent on defying an order from the federal government: white Southerners in the 1960s. They also terrorized children, African-Americans who sought to attend desegregated public schools, much as the children on the bus were terrorized by the angry mob.

Protester: U.S. 'not a borderless nation'
Border battle on the 4th of July
What's next in the immigration crisis?

It's not a perfect comparison; the children on the bus were undocumented immigrants, many of whom might qualify for refugee status if they can show "credible fear" of returning to their home countries. The African-American children were U.S. citizens.

Still, I wasn't the only person in America thinking that we had seen this movie before.

"This green-eyed and blond-with-gray woman who is 74 years old cannot believe that 'my fellow citizens' haven't learned anything over the last 50-plus years," wrote one reader. "I remember college friends who went to Alabama and Mississippi to help register voters, teach people to read, march for civil rights for ALL of us, no matter what color or race or socioeconomic status.

Opinion: The right fate for immigrant kids

"The screaming and hateful people in (Murrieta) reminded me of the people who screamed at little black kids walking to schools (accompanied by law enforcement), who treated James Meredith and Autherine Lucy and so many young people horribly. It is so sad that after all these years, so many people haven't gotten a clue about decency and kindness."

In 1956, Lucy was the first African-American to attend the University of Alabama. In 1962, Meredith became the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi. Both students were tormented by classmates.

Once Meredith enrolled at Ole Miss, rioting broke out on the Oxford, Mississippi, campus. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent 500 U.S. marshals to maintain order and protect the civil rights pioneer.

By trying to thwart the intent of the federal government, the Murrieta mob seems to want to relive the '60s.

Fine. Let's go back to the '60s. Send in the marshals.

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:12 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
By now it should be painfully obvious that this latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza is fundamentally different than its predecessors.
updated 5:24 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Sally Kohn says like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, Market Basket workers are asking for shared prosperity.
updated 7:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Obama will convene an Africa summit Monday at the White House, and Laurie Garrett asks why the largest Ebola epidemic ever recorded is not on the agenda.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Seventy years ago, Anne Frank made her final entry in her diary -- a work, says Francine Prose, that provides a crucial link to history for young people.
updated 7:50 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Van Jones says "student" debt should be called "education debt" because entire families are paying the cost.
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 7:00 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Marc Randazza: ESPN commentator fell victim to "PC" police for suggesting something outside accepted narrative.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Mark O'Mara says working parents often end up being arrested after leaving kids alone.
updated 4:31 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Shanin Specter says we need to strengthen laws that punish auto companies for selling defective cars.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT