After two months of battling on the issue, the Santa Maria City Council approved plans to build a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. The 3-2 vote disappointed several groups opposed the project from the beginning.
Hazel Davalos spoke Thursday night during the 8-hour special City Council meeting on behalf of a group that appealed the Planning Commission's approval of the new ICE processing facility.
Along with homeowners near the proposed building site and farmers, the immigrant community opposes the plan. Many are fearful of deportation and raids.
"We are very disappointed with the decision," said Davalos. "It's almost unbelievable that the City Council could disregard the voices of thousands of residents, homeowners, and business owners."
ICE representatives say the new facility does not mean an expansion of its current mission. Their target remains undocmented convicted criminals. They say there will be no raids.
Three out of the five council members voted for final approval to this ICE facility. Councilman Bob Orach was one of them, along with Willie Green and Jack Boysen. Orach says he's confident that ICE will stay true to its word.
"The agriculture community and the workers here in the valley for years have done so many positive things for the economy and the community. In the 90's maybe there were some sweeps and things of that nature. To my mind, and I've asked a lot of people, I'm not seeing that that's anyone's mission in our valley," said Orach.
Davalos says the vote will have an impact on the local immigrant community.
"There are people saying they are thinking about moving," said Davalos. "We're really just trying to strategize next steps, how can we inform the community on what's going to happen."
Some members of the community will spend the weekend figuring out next steps after the decision. A news conference is planned outside City Hall on Monday at 11:00 a.m to address the City Council's vote.