A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, says the proposed Enforcement and Removal Operations, or EOR, facility in Santa Maria has become the target of a deliberate misinformation and fear-mongering campaign.
ICE says it wants the community to consider the follwing facts:
ICE-ERO has had a field office in the area since 1996.
Its current facility at the Lompoc Federal Prison is outdated and no longer functional.
The proposed ERO facility would provide work space for about a dozen ICE employees and would have three temporary holding cells in a fully secured building.
That the building is not a detention center and there would be no overnight accommodation.
That most people deported by the ERO are prison parolees or jail inmates, 85 to 90 percent of whom ICE says have multiple criminal convictions.
ICE-ERO focuses its enforcement on individuals posing the greatest risk to the community.
Central coast news has learned neighboring homeowners plan to appeal to the City Council the recent Planning Commission approval of the re-zoning and building permit for the ICE Project.
"The biggest problem I have is the notification, there was no notification" says neighboring homeowner Suzanne Buhrig about the project's approval process.
Buhrig lives in the Somerset Garden Townhomes which are next to the proposed ICE facility location.
"According to Steven Finn, ICE supervisor for this area, he said that we will get the worst of the worst prisoners", Buhrig contends, "they'll be coming from Lompoc Federal Prison where they've been serving 10 to 15 years, they've had a lot of time to think about how to break out of there and I feel it's a danger to the community and I'm just not for it."
Buhrig says she and her neighbors plan to appeal the project's approval to the City Council citing potential impacts to their property values.
"It will diminish our prospects for selling and renting the property", Buhrig says, "it must be disclosed, there are seven pages of disclosures that we must fill out when we lease or rent our property, or sell it, and if we do not do that we are subject to being sued."
Others supporting an appeal say the ICE project is an attack on Santa Maria's large immigrant community.
"Its very disappointing the city could disregard the voice of three thousand people", says Hazel Davalos of working family advocacy group CAUSE, "not just immigrant rights advocates but homeowners and people from the business sector including agriculture."
"They did say in the meeting they are still going to be doing raids and would be asking other people in the home about their immigration status", Davalos says about the proposed ICE holding facility, "there is so much confusion and misinformation that people are scared. Perception is reality and for a lot of the people when they think of ICE, they are thinking of years ago when raids were happening out in the open."
A majority of the five-member City Council has twice voted to approve the proposed ICE holding facility.