SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The recently approved Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility has met with intense criticism from the local immigrant community, farmers, and homeowners. Today a community-based group says their fight against ICE isn't over.
Several community organizations stood in front of city hall to respond to the city council's decision last week on the controversial ICE building. The local immigrant community has spoken out against the new facility in fear of deportation and raids. Community organizers at the press conference promised to continue fighting to stop the facility and explore legal options to do so.
We spoke with an ICE representative by phone who again said the ICE employees will only process undocumented convicted criminals, and the facility will benefit all of Santa Maria.
Marcela Santiago is a representative from one of the several community organizations. She says the facility will have devastating effects on the local agriculture industry, and it will be felt soon if something isn't done.
Marcela has spent years working in local strawberry fields. She says many of the families she works with have told her of plans to move away from Santa Maria by the end of this year.
"They think they might get deported and they don't want their kids to be separated," said Santiago. "They just want their children to have a good life, so that's why they're planning to move."
The organizers of today's press conference hope they can stop the ICE building and keep immigrant families in Santa Maria.
"Right now I'm just telling my community to not be scared, to not leave," said Santiago. "Just keep working. We have hope it will not happen still."
No date for construction on the new ICE facility has been announced, but it's expected to be finished sometime by January of next year.