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Santa Maria Organizations Plan May Day Rally to Protest New ICE Facility

Officials say employees are expected to move into the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility on West Century Street by summer

Santa Maria residents are protesting the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility built on West Century Street that is expected to open in early summer.
Santa Maria residents are protesting the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility built on West Century Street that is expected to open in early summer. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Community, faith and labor organizations will speak up for the rights of immigrants and workers Friday on May Day at the new — but not yet occupied — Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Santa Maria and hold a rally downtown.

The events will mark May Day, the international day of the worker and day of the immigrant, with the press conference taking place in front of the nearly-completed ICE facility at 740 W. Century St. in Santa Maria. Later Friday, a May Day rally is set for the corner of Broadway and Main Street, starting at 6 p.m.

Organizers say the facility has brought "fear and frustration" to immigrants in Santa Maria and are calling on city officials to ensure ICE officials do not use the site “to detain, process and separate immigrant families who have not committed serious crimes and are simply living and working among their neighbors in Santa Maria.”

Groups participating in the events include CAUSE, Frente Indigena, United Domestic Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5Councilwoman Terri Zuniga and the Rev. Deborah Dunn.

“They will also be calling on local policymakers to show immigrant communities they are welcome and safe in Santa Maria by taking meaningful actions to repair the relationship between immigrant families and local civic institutions, from city hall to the school district to the police department,” said Hazel Davalos, community organizing director with CAUSE.

The facility is new for Santa Maria, but the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in North County are not. 

The Santa Maria ICE facility will be used for interviewing people coming into ICE custody, not as a detention center, according to Homeland Security officials. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Since 1996, ICE has operated from older trailers on Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex property. The existing facility has become outdated for the approximately dozen employees who work at the site, Department of Homeland Security officials said.

The Santa Maria location also will have easier access for the public and law enforcement agencies.

Workers are expected to move into the new facility by early summer, according to Lori Haley, a Homeland Security spokeswoman.

“We’re looking forward to it becoming operational,” she said. 

Like the current facility in Lompoc, “the new location will have secure space for interviewing and briefly holding individuals who are coming into ICE custody following their release from area jails or prisons,” Homeland Security officials said.

Federal officials note the new facility is not a detention center and will not have overnight holding or bed space. People expected to stay in ICE custody will be transferred to a detention center.  

In 2014, thousands attended city meetings and urged Santa Maria officials to reject the facility.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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