WEATHER »
An audience member speaks against the proposed ICE facility in Santa Maria at the Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night

Frank Cowan/Santa Maria Times

An audience member speaks against the proposed ICE facility in Santa Maria at the Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night


Huge Protest Against Santa Maria ICE Center

Planning Commission Approves Building Permit


Thursday, February 13, 2014
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Comments
Share Article

[Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story appears here.]

Since the Santa Maria Planning Commission approved a permit last Wednesday for a new federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility, the possible effects of the decision ​— ​which is likely to be appealed to the Santa Maria City Council by the February 26 deadline ​— ​have reverberated throughout the community. Approximately 5,000 people showed up to the meeting, most of whom were opposed to the building and 1,500 of whom filled the city’s Fairpark convention center.

The project’s opponents contend ICE’s presence could lead to raids at the most and a culture of fear at the least, plus decreased property values and a depleted workforce. Said Hazel Putney-Davalos, a community organizer who works for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), “The cons certainly outweigh the pros.”

About 5,000 people showed up at the Santa Maria Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night to express concern over a proposed ICE facility in the city.
Click to enlarge photo

Frank Cowan/Santa Maria Times

About 5,000 people showed up at the Santa Maria Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night to express concern over a proposed ICE facility in the city.

Not so, ICE officials have said. To be located at 740 West Century Street, near residential homes and not far from the planned North County Jail, the one-story building ​— ​which ICE would lease, not own ​— ​would comprise 9,700 square feet of an approximately 12,000-square-foot building, the rest of which will house medical offices. The center will take over the duties currently performed at the ICE facility at the Lompoc prison, said ICE spokesperson Lori Haley.

Most importantly, Haley said, the facility will only take custody of people convicted of serious crimes, who are transferred from regional jails or prisons. The facility would hold no more than 13 people and for no more than 12 hours; most detainees, after a few hours, would be bused down to a Los Angeles–area detention center. “The public should understand that ICE is focused on sensible, effective immigration enforcement, prioritizing our efforts first on individuals who present the greatest risk to the communities,” Haley said, who also stressed that the Santa Maria building would allow family visitation. “Wholesale raids are not something that ICE does. The community needs to understand this.”

Last year, ICE deported about 369,000 people nationwide, but the organization doesn’t track the number of deportations per city or county, Haley said. According to Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover, while the number of ICE holds in place at the Santa Barbara County Jail can vary, the count usually hovers between 60-90 daily. However, the department doesn’t record how many of those inmates are awaiting trial or are convicted; how many are deported is also not tracked.

Police Chief Ralph Martin, appointed in late 2012, said that his department’s relationship with the city’s Latino community ​— ​which many said is being rebuilt in the wake of the strained dynamic under the former chief ​— ​wouldn’t be affected by ICE moving into town. He said that the facility could even benefit the area’s immigrant community, as they are often preyed upon by felons who know that victims won’t report crimes for fear of deportation; he said that the immigration status of victims and witnesses to crimes is “not a concern” of his department.

“I think that some people look at the structure as a building and not at what it represents to a great number of our residents,” said Robert Dickerson, the sole planning commissioner to vote against awarding the permit. He said he weighed the mental health of the city’s sizable Latino community when making his decision. “I wouldn’t want to be living looking over my shoulder all the time,” he said.

An audience member listens to discussion of a proposed ICE facility in Santa Maria at the city Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night.
Click to enlarge photo

Frank Cowan/Santa Maria Times

An audience member listens to discussion of a proposed ICE facility in Santa Maria at the city Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night.

At previous city hearings on the building, the property was rezoned back to its original office-space classification, leading many to wonder how an ICE facility could meet that designation. Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino, who has voted in favor of the building, said with an appeal likely, she plans to meet with homeowners, farmers, Congressmember Lois Capps, and ICE officials to suss out the concerns.Patino said this issue highlights the need for federal immigration reform, which has stalled in Congress. “This gets dropped on our doorstep as a City Council, and it shouldn’t be,” she said. “We need the workers, but they need to be here legally.” Capps, an advocate for immigration reform, has spoken out against ICE’s lack of communication with residents; her spokesperson said in a statement that she is working to “get important questions answered.”

Some said that the Trust Act (AB 4), a state law that went into effect in January, could play a small role in easing worries, as it lessens the power of the federal Secure Communities program by limiting the types of inmates who can be placed on ICE holds, but that the building’s likely proximity to the new jail could be a concern. Christina Fialho, an Arroyo Grande native whose national organization, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), is working on the appeal, said that ICE’s presence in Santa Maria will “erode public safety and community trust.”

Whether the facility moves forward or not, Putney-Davalos said the meeting’s hefty turnout showed promise. Not only are people planning to rally against the center ahead of future hearings, she said, but they are talking about what their numbers could mean for upcoming Santa Maria City Council races. “We need to take steps to prevent this from happening again and get a Latino city councilmember elected this November,” she said. “Regardless of who can vote, they can knock on doors.”

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

Would those who oppose this facility also be in favor of unlimited immigration from all other parts of the world?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2014 at 5:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes lets just make everything a free for all otherwise be accused of racism. Yet if I tried to pull this crap down in good ole Mexico, I would be shot.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2014 at 10:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Then they'd be pickin' up a spare with your head!

garfish (anonymous profile)
February 13, 2014 at 9:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Exactly! Can you imagine if I went down and protested the Federales?

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2014 at 2:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wonder why people oppose immigration only to compare our immigration system to another country? Is the fact that we are a melting pot, that we are a country of immigrants not show that this is the very reason we are such a grand and wonderful country that this is what sets us apart from the rest of the world? While we enjoy living in peace with such a multitude of races and religion while other countries kill, murder and maim in the name of race and religion, you sound the voices of the very same discrimination and hate of those countries embattled with problems. I for one, do not compare our country to any other because we are unique in this world and in human history. DON'T HATE LEARN THE REAL DEBATE.

santosaint (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2014 at 3:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So thousands show up at the hearing yet only about a dozen people turned out Wednesday night for a public outreach meeting hosted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Hmmm ...

discoboy (anonymous profile)
February 14, 2014 at 4:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If people want to live in a mob-rule banana republic, they didn't need to cross the US border.

Turing this Immigration processing facility into one more disingenuous Latino Power litmus test, like the mobs are doing with the SB city gang injunction will make the US no different than the country left behind.

If people bothered to come here, they did agree to not undermine how this country works. Rule of law, process and representative government. Not mobs storming the barricades.

The irony is remarkable. Allegedly this mob doesn't want to get "swept up and deported" back to a country long known for mob and corrupt politics rule itself. Yet they bring this very same mob action to this country. Go figure. We don't want it.

You are in America. We are a system of laws and constitution protections. If you don't believe this then stop voting Democratic, Vote to support law and order. Yep, that means vote Republican.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2014 at 5:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OK so...let me see if I have this right. Permit me to use an analogy:

"We don't want a new police station in our neighborhood because it'll make the lawbreakers uncomfortable and might make it easier to arrest them."

Am I close?

Holly (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2014 at 1:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"You are in America. We are a system of laws and constitution protections. If you don't believe this then stop voting Democratic, Vote to support law and order. Yep, that means vote Republican."

foofighter (anonymous profile)
February 15, 2014 at 5:46 p.m.

I have to disagree with you Foo. The following link/meme sums up the Big Picture.

http://media-cache-cd0.pinimg.com/736...

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2014 at 3 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Foo (and anyone else interested) here's another link for you:
http://rare.us/story/7-ways-republica...

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2014 at 6:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Dirty Knobs

The Dirty Knobs and The Coffis Brothers & The Mountain ... Read More