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 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
America will have its hands full in the Middle East for years to come, writes Aaron David Miller.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Sat November 15, 2014
Gene Seymour says it's part of our pioneering makeup to keep exploring the universe
updated 12:42 PM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
Sally Kohn says the U.S.-China agreement to cut carbon emissions is a big deal, and Republicans should take note.
updated 4:29 PM EST, Sat November 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the Obamacare advisor who repeatedly disses the electorate in a series of videotaped remarks reveals arrogance and cluelessnes.
updated 5:00 PM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
Reggie Littlejohn says gendercide is a human rights abuse against women, with bad consequences for nations.
updated 11:57 AM EST, Thu November 13, 2014
The massing of Russian forces near Ukraine only reinforces the impression that Moscow has no interest in reconciliation with the West, writes Michael Kofman.
updated 9:55 AM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
It takes a real man to make the moves on the wife of the most powerful man in the biggest country. Especially when the wife is a civilian major general.
updated 8:47 AM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
Proponents of marriage equality LGBT persons have been on quite a winning streak -- 32 states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex marriage.
updated 8:58 AM EST, Thu November 13, 2014
It has been an eventful few weeks for space news.
updated 3:14 PM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
It's too early to write the U.S. off, and China's leaderships knows that better than anyone, argues Kerry Brown.
updated 1:21 PM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
"How can Jon Stewart hire you to be 'The Daily Show''s senior Muslim correspondent when you don't even know how to pronounce Salaam Al-aikum?!"
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT