Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Send U.S. marshals to the border

By Ruben Navarrette
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1749 GMT (0149 HKT)
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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT