Undocumented immigrants in Santa Maria say they live in constant fear of getting picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. On Saturday afternoon, dozens of protesters rallied outside the ICE facility in Santa Maria to end family separation.
“We demand ICE out of our communities!” activists chanted.
“We live in so much fear of getting picked up by ICE any time we go out in the streets,” CAUSE organizer Francisca Pacheco said.
Pacheco is a single mother of five and said she can relate to the family separation crisis at the southern border.
“If they were to detain me, what would happen to my kids? We would go through the same thing families are experiencing at the border right now,” she continued.
On Saturday, Francisca joined dozens of activists in demanding Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents out of the Santa Maria community.
But not everybody was on board.
“I don’t think we should abolish ICE,” said local resident Richard Dydell. “This facility here… this is only to process criminal aliens.”
Dydell says the U.S does need to protect its border.
“I’ve taken border tours, I’ve seen the drug smuggling,” he added.
However, Francisca says she’s seen federal agents recently detain friends with no criminal backgrounds in Santa Maria.
Organizers also called on the Trump administration to reunite more than 2,000 children with their families.
“I can’t believe that my government is detaining children away from their parents at such a young age,” said Heather Anne Campbell, who traveled from El Dorado County to rally in Santa Maria. “Any child has got to feel anxiety from the trip they took.”
Organizers said they want comprehensive immigration reform, too.
“We need to fix our whole immigration department,” said activist Pedro Reyes. “We need a path to citizenship that’s gonna help millions of people that are in this country already.”
But Dydell worries this would put U.S citizens out of a job.
“It is true that they’re taking a lot of jobs. Agriculture is an exception, but in other areas they’re taking up jobs that could go to Americans.”
Local activists disagree.
“Say it loud, say it clear: immigrants are welcome here!” they chanted.
Less than two weeks ago, president Donald Trump signed an executive order to end family separations at the southern border. However, more than 2,000 immigrant children are still waiting to be reunited with their families.