Saturday, February 23, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 51

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 3rd, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 18

Locals protest immigration policies at Santa Maria ICE facility

By Joe Payne

To the steady beat of two conga drums, a crowd of more than 200 protesters chanted slogans at the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) facility off West McCoy Lane in Santa Maria after 5 p.m. on June 30.

"The people, united, will never be divided! The people, united, will never be divided!" the group chanted.

The protest included more chants, talks by several speakers with local activist and faith groups, and a march from the ICE facility to McCoy and Broadway and back. The demonstration was organized by Central Coast United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), the Fund for Santa Barbara, and Planned Parenthood in opposition to the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy for asylum seekers who've been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Some protestors held signs that said "Abolish ICE" and called for the federal agency to leave Santa Maria.

Speakers included Jorge Manly-Gil with the Catholic Worker, Rev. Bob Islip of the First United Methodist Church of Santa Maria, and CAUSE Community Director Hazel Davalos. Manly-Gil spoke first, greeting the crowd in Spanish and English through a small, portable PA system to the crowd assembled in the cul-de-sac directly in front of the unmarked ICE facility.

"Welcome y'all, welcome. I'm so glad you're here to show our neighbors here in the Santa Maria Valley that we still retain our humanity and remind the folks who work here in this office to reclaim their humanity and stop the raids, stop the deportations, stop the deportations of families," Manly-Gil said. "Yes?"

A crowd of more than 200 protestors gathered at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Santa Maria to protest the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy at the U.S.-Mexico border and recent ICE sweeps through Santa Barbara County.

"Yeah," the crowd cheered in reply.

Manly-Gil mentioned the Trump administration's policy of separating children from parents as part of the zero tolerance policy, saying the "shocking images and videos" from detention facilities "have revealed to the world the cruelty and brutality of ICE that our immigrant communities have known for years."

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 20 essentially ending child separation, opting to detain families together under the zero tolerance policy. The change came after a bipartisan outcry to end the policy, which advocacy groups, lawmakers, and public figures said was inhumane.

Rev. Islip was one of the pastors who voted on a recent resolution from United Methodist Church that condemned the policy and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, also a Methodist, for a policy the church deemed abusive, immoral, and discriminatory.

"Know that there are churches who are against this," he told the crowd. "And the churches who say they are for this, ... they are misreading and misunderstanding the words of the Bible."

Davalos told the group assembled there that despite Trump's executive order, families detained at the border were still separated, and called for the reunification of the thousands of children still separated from parents.

Davalos also said that local undocumented families have been separated because of ICE's presence in Santa Maria, mentioning the most recent ICE sweep in Santa Barbara County, which detained 22 undocumented residents.

"Unfortunately, our anti-immigrant City Council voted in favor of opening this center," Davalos said. "We were disappointed, but not defeated. Thank you everyone for being here. It gives me hope to see so many people ready to fight so that this government appreciates us as immigrants."

The crowd marched from the facility to along McCoy Lane to Broadway, congesting the intersection's crosswalks for several minutes before marching back to the facility. Marchers included activist youth, the local Democratic club, and social justice organizations.

Santa Maria resident and Marine Corps veteran Edward Zook wasn't aware there was an ICE facility in Santa Maria until recently, and he didn't hesitate to join the protest to help take a stand against ICE and the Trump administration's immigration policies.

"This country was built on immigration from the very beginning, from the pilgrims on forward," Zook told the Sun. "This is like repeating history again a couple of times over, with the Native Americans being dehumanized, blacks being dehumanized, Latinos being dehumanized, and it's got to stop."

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