A California desert town sees surge in migrants as border crisis worsens


The little boy playing in the parking lot of a Seventh-day Adventist Church here was startled when three U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicles pulled in.

Favio Ferreira, a 7-year-old from Guatemala, ran inside to tell the others.

“Come, come, la migra!” he said.

But the agents weren’t there to round up people who were in the country illegally. They were dropping immigrants off.

The scene that unfolded recently in this desert city about 100 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border exemplifies how the immigration crisis has spilled over into communities farther north.

With a historic flow of Central American families fleeing poverty and violence, federal officials earlier this spring began releasing migrants on their own recognizance from inundated detention centers in growing numbers. About 175,000 have left custody since Dec. 21.

Nonprofit and faith-based organizations in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are among those that have stepped in to help the asylum seekers. But the mounting costs have raised doubts — among local officials and advocates alike — about how long they can keep doing so.

More from The LA Times