Roughly 450 people gathered outside Santa Maria’s ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) facility, chanting, “Shut ICE down!” on Saturday. The protest followed a downtown Santa Barbara “Families Belong Together” march that drew a few thousand in protest of President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration crackdown, and was part of an estimated 700 similar rallies nationwide.
“This is the first time we are organizing here [in Santa Maria],” said Hazel Davalos, the Santa Maria–based community organizing director for Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE). However, added Elias, who did not want to give his last name, “[Family separation] is nothing new. It’s been happening [here] for years, and finally people are beginning to understand the cruelty and damage that ICE brings to our community.”
Three years ago, 3,000 people protested to keep this facility out, said Davalos. “And now they are planning to grow their staff.” Community members live in fear of deportation, she said. Organizers are concerned about the proximity of the ICE facility to the new jail, set to open in April of next year. “Whether they’ve committed a crime or not, we’ll stand behind them,” she added. “No person deserves to be punished twice — once by our criminal justice system and a second time by deportation.”
While the rally was organized by CAUSE, a number of organizations collaborated and attended the rally, including Planned Parenthood. The group’s Central Coast representative, Miguel Angel Perez, told the crowd that President Trump’s administration want “to divide and conquer” communities. “But, one: We are not the enemy. And two: You will never divide us.”
Farmworker and mother of five Francisca Pacheco, who has lived in Santa Maria for 15 years, told the crowd, “I am part of this community.” Pacheco said she has two kids enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented students — one is a college graduate and the other is studying medicine. She said it would be tragic if they lost everything they’ve been working toward.