Paloma Esquivel
July 2, 2014

After anti-illegal immigration protesters in Murrieta successfully forced buses full of migrants to divert to San Diego for processing, groups of immigration advocates have quietly galvanized.

Among the supporters of the migrants is Tina Nicholas, who oversees Mercy ministries at Centerpoint Church in Murrieta.

“Even though you’re seeing on TV and the public so much outburst of anti-immigrant feelings,” she said, “I think there are a lot of people that want to respond and have compassionate hearts.”

Nicholas, who has lived in Murrieta for 25 years, has been working with local churches to coordinate relief for the migrants since she learned last week that they would be arriving in town.

Locals have been collecting bags of groceries, personal hygiene products and diapers in anticipation of the arrivals, she said.

As she watched the protests on the news Tuesday, she said, “My husband and I were just so saddened. We just did not believe people would not be more compassionate. We have so much here … we can’t turn away from this.”

She said she’s been advocating on immigration issues for years but had never seen the issue hit so close to home. She said she’s reached out to border agents and to other local churches and organizations to offer help for the migrants.

Luz Gallegos of TODEC legal center, which offers services to local migrants and is based in nearby Perris, said area residents have been emailing, calling and leaving messages on Facebook to offer shelter, food and transportation for the migrants since itr was announced last week that they would be arriving in Murrieta.

“It’s overwhelming all the response from the community,” she said. “We are welcoming our migrants and it breaks our hearts that there is so much hate.”

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