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When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) proposed building a federal immigrant detention center in Santa Maria, CAUSE knew we had to fight back. With record levels of deportations in recent years, residents of this predominantly immigrant city feared that building infrastructure to make it easier to deport immigrants from Santa Maria would not only separate more people from their families and communities, but also cripple the local agricultural economy as undocumented workers no longer felt safe in the city.
The Santa Maria chapter’s immigration committee spread the word through TV, radio and newspapers, built a powerful coalition of community groups, labor unions, faith and business leaders, and organized thousands to attend city council and planning commission meetings to stop the building from being approved. City council and planning commission meetings had to be moved to the fairgrounds to hold the crowds, and were still overflowing with Santa Maria residents opposing ICE. The historic grassroots opposition movement stunned city officials and the news media, with more people coming to public meetings to speak out about a local issue than anyone could remember.
Yet despite the massive public outcry, the City Council still voted against the community, proving what we already knew: The current council does not represent the people of Santa Maria, working families or immigrant communities. We need deeper reforms to bring accountability and fair representation to Santa Maria.