SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Between two and three thousand people showed up at the Santa Maria Fairpark Convention Center Wednesday night for a specially-arranged meeting of the Santa Maria City Planning Commission.
Most of the massive crowd came to voice opposition to a proposed new Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, processing facility on about an acre of land in the southwest portion of the city near McCoy Lane.
The current ICE processing facility is at the Lompoc Federal Prison.
Opponents of the new ICE facility say it's sending shock waves of fear through the Santa Maria Valley migrant farm worker community.
"There was a general sense of fear that there was going to be heightened interaction of ICE with their community", says Santa Maria Planning Commissioner Robert Dickerson, "that people are going to be picked up and deported, family members were going to be picked up and deported in a heightened way."
Dickerson was the lone dissenting vote in the Planning Commission's 3-1 vote to approve the zoning change and permit for the private developer to build the 12,700 square foot ICE building that includes staff office space and three temporary detention cells.
Commissioner Dickerson says he's also concerned about the impact the new ICE Building will have on the economy with frightened migrant workers moving on to other locations in California further aggravating the farm worker shortage.
"For me it is the fear factor that was the reason I voted no", Dickerson says about his vote, "if you get two to three percent of your entire population showing up for a single meeting, and as one voice and say, we don't want something, you should listen to them."
Opponents of the City Planning Commission decision on the ICE Facility have three weeks to file an appeal to the City Council.