If you visited the City of Murrieta’s official website last week, you saw a link to a post titled: “Murrieta Opposes Illegal Immigrant Arrival.”
The article, that included statements made by Mayor Alan Long, made it clear the local government opposed this week’s arrival of “illegal immigrants” in their city.
The original statement has since been removed from the website and replaced with a gentler message. But the damage might already have been done.
The original post, published June 30, fanned the fears and suspicions of the local population, and apparently was interpreted by some in the community as a call to action.
“Murrieta has been informed that the immigrants will have already been screened for health issues, but Supervisor Stone and Murrieta are not taking any chances,” the original statement read. The post stressed the mayor’s insistence that “Murrieta will remain a safe community regardless of the pending arrival of these illegal immigrants.”
The term “illegal immigrant,” considered offensive by rights groups, was used five times in the statement. In the subsequent statement, published July 3, that language was scrubbed and replaced by the softer term “undocumented immigrants.”
A request for comment from Murrieta’s public information officer went unanswered by press time. But the new statement posted to the city’s website takes a penitent tone and seems to acknowledge the folly of the earlier statement.
“This has been a difficult week in the city of Murrieta. We have been challenged and in some ways we fell down in the face of the challenge,” writes City Manager Rick Dudley in the new message published on the site.
Dudley says the mayor’s initial message was misinterpreted and may have encouraged the ugly events that put Murrieta at center stage of the immigration debate this week.
“Sadly, too many people took this as encouragement to protest the arrival of buses carrying the women and children to the Border Patrol station in Murrieta,” Dudley wrote.
Murrieta’s Police Department is less apologetic. The department has remained consistent in its tone, with press releases that continue to refer to “illegal immigrants.”
California has the most active hate groups in the nation, according to the Southern Poverty Center. In the Inland Empire, the greater geographical region to which Murrieta belongs, experts say shifting demographics from the mass migration by lower-income people of color pushed out of higher-rent districts in surrounding cities has bred fertile grounds for racial conflict .
"There is a significant concentration of hate groups in the Inland Empire, unlike anywhere else in the nation,” Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, told the LA Times in 2010.
You can see both the original message and the latest update posted to the City of Murrieta's website below.