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Protesters gather, await arrival of undocumented immigrants in California

By Alicia Avila

MURRIETA Calif. (Reuters) - Immigration demonstrations intensified in a southern California town on Friday as protesters filled a desolate road to a U.S. Customs and Border Station to await the arrival of undocumented Central American families for processing.

Protesters on both sides of the immigration issue flocked to Murrieta, California, where police said some 140 undocumented families were expected on buses from Texas.

Immigrant families are fleeing strife-torn Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras across the U.S.-Mexico border by the thousands via human smuggling rings.

Protesters carried banners and megaphones, prayed, chanted and danced as they waited for the buses.

Officials have not said when the buses would arrive.

Murrieta residents made headlines earlier this week when they successfully blocked three buses transporting undocumented families to the border station.

Some expressed concern over their town and its residents being mislabeled as racist.

"We're not like that. We're very good people, very compassionate people," said Anita Radosevic, who said she opposes Central Americans coming to the United States.

“But the people that are coming in, they're not from Mexico," she said. "We're more than willing to help our illegals from Mexico. They're more like Americans. They come here and they work hard.”

Some demonstrators drove hundreds of miles to show their support for the immigrants.

"This is horrendous, what this government has done to all of Central America, economically dominating it for decades, causing the conditions where people have to flee their homelands," said Joey Johnson of San Francisco.

Most of the immigrants have shown up in Texas, overwhelming detention and processing facilities and leading U.S. immigration authorities to set up overflow sites in California to help screen and manage the influx.

Immigration officials said most of the families headed for California were likely to be released under limited supervision to await deportation proceedings and would likely be placed with relatives or friends in other cities or stay in temporary housing provided by charity groups.

(Editing by Kevin Murphy, Ellen Wulfhorst and Lisa Shumaker)

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