MCFARLAND, Calif. — It was standing room only at the McFarland Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday night after city officials announced that an ICE detention facility, that was supposed to be closing, may get re-purposed as a processing facility after a new contract was secured by the GEO Group.
The GEO Group is a private prison company that "provides complementary, turnkey solutions for numerous government partners worldwide across a spectrum of diversified correctional and community reentry services."
Representatives with the company say the new plan would be good for the community.
"The reason why I think it's a good benefit to the community is that ICE processing happens all over the United States, regardless if it's in McFarland, Chicago or New York. In this case, people would be losing their jobs from the one facility in McFarland, but will now have an opportunity to be employed by the newly re-purposed facility," explained Emanuel Barr of the GEO Group.
GEO Group runs the Mesa Verde ICE processing center in Bakersfield and has requested amending the permits for its Golden State and Central Valley facilities to be re-purposed. But feedback from the public at Tuesday night's meeting was overwhelming with many protesting the meeting outside, saying they were happier with the facility originally being closed and would rather not have ICE in their community in any shape or form.
"As far as we're concerned, once ICE gets jurisdiction into our city, they are going to be able to come in and raid homes or go to the grocery stores, go to the schools and take people away that are undocumented," explained McFarland resident Evelyn Andrade. "McFarland, the majority of our citizens here are undocumented. So, without them there is no economy, without them, there is no McFarland."
Only 50 people were allowed to sit inside while the meeting took place.
Those in support of the GEO plan presented a different view, carrying signs that said "Families Need Jobs" and "Please Save Our Jobs."
The McFarland Planning Commission did not take action on the issue at Tuesday night's meeting. According to officials with the commission, another public comment will be held in six months before a decision is made on the permits.