We are learning more about the possible construction of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Santa Maria. Earlier this week, the idea prompted protests at city hall. Today, the city's Planning Commission held a study session to get up to speed on the project.
The study session today cleared up some confusion on how this facility is going to work, and what operations will take place there. In addition to that, an ICE agent cleared the air on fear gripping the immigrant community here in Santa Maria.
ICE officers in the area currently operate out of trailer units on the Lompoc Federal Prison property. The proposal is to build a 12,700 square foot facility near the intersection of McCoy Lane and Depot Street. That facility would be used as a processing center for criminals booked in local jails who are found to be undocumented, eventually leading to deportation.
Currently, ICE agents have to leave these criminals in vans parked outside of the Lompoc Prison while they process paperwork. An ICE agent at the study session said this new facility would allow them to treat these criminals more humanely.
"With this facility, we could bring them inside, we can feed them, we can house them for a short period of time," says Steven Finn, and ICE officer. "It is not a detention facility. It is not a housing facility. It is a processing center."
The project would include a barbed wire fence around the perimeter and a six-foot high security fence at the front of the property. This will go back to the Planning Commission for a vote on February 5th.
The facility will only deal with criminals, and the agent added there is no plan to do roundups or sweeps around the city for undocumented immigrants.