A controversial ICE facility is approved in Santa Maria

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On a narrow 3-2 vote, the Santa Maria City Council upheld a February Planning Commission decision to approve a building permit for an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Santa Maria.

The council’s March 27 special meeting to discuss four appeals against the Planning Commission’s February decision to grant a development permit for the project started at 3 p.m. and dragged on for more than eight hours. More than 1,200 locals turned up to protest the project.

After listening to presentations from city staffers, the appellants, and the developers—as well as public comment from dozens of concerned citizens—the council voted 3-2, with Mayor Alice Patino and Councilmember Terri Zuniga dissenting, to uphold the Planning Commission’s decision.

The vote didn’t sit well with the meeting’s several hundred remaining attendees and spurred some to start chanting what sounded like “We remember the KKK!” Others wiped away tears as they made their way outside and back to their homes.

Dennis Apel—who recently made headlines because of his protests at Vandenberg Air Force Base—approached the dais with a sign reading, “NO A ICE EN NUESTRA COMUNIDAD,” and loudly challenged the council members’ decision. The move prompted Police Chief Ralph Martin and other officers to form a human barricade between the public and the council members and developers as they left the building.

According to ICE officials, the proposed office would serve as a processing facility for undocumented inmates coming out of the Lompoc Penitentiary, the California Men’s Colony, and the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbra County jails.

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