COMMENTARY: With GEO temporarily postponed, I can sleep peacefully for now

July 29, 2020 /

Mcfarland has decided to postpone the detention facilities, and as someone who lives near a detention center, I am relieved. As a community, we did not want McFarland to participate in holding immigrants in GEO’s detention facilities; however, the McFarland City Council made that decision without taking the residents into consideration.

In April, the city council approved GEO Group’s permit requests to operate two immigration detention facilities in McFarland, despite a large portion of the community being against it. As of July, it has been deferred for the time being. 

A federal judge approved a temporary restraining order against the City of McFarland and the GEO Group, Inc., which means the two agencies cannot act on the permits that would allow GEO to turn two state prisons in McFarland to immigration detention centers and cannot use the facilities as immigration detention centers.

Having a detention center in McFarland would drive away the people at risk for being detained, leaving this once vibrant community shattered. Postponing the addition of GEO Group has given me a sense of hope. Although it wasn’t McFarland officials,it finally feels like someone in government is taking us into account. 

As I have mentioned before, I live near a detention center, so with the delay I can go back to sleeping peacefully at night knowing the people in my community are not in as much danger. 

I was opposed to the detention center from the beginning, so when I heard that McFarland was allowing GEO to operate their facilities here, I was extremely disappointed to know that my town’s council had decided to make that decision despite everyone being against it. It felt as if we were not being heard; However that changed when a federal judge decided to grant a temporary restraining order against GEO. Although it is only temporary, I consider it a major accomplishment that we will not be holding immigrants in those centers during these difficult times.

Having a detention center in a town full of immigrants was very contradictory. The town of McFarland is meant to be a safe haven for both documented and undocumented families and with the defering of the detention center, we, as a community, relish in the fact that the town of McFarland can go back to being a vibrant community without the fear of being detained.

Having an enemy in my own backyard would have most definitely made me feel that doing simple things outside would be a chore because I would have to see that building — not to mention walking to and from school and doing everyday childhood activities. 

Delaying the addition of the detention center allows families to stay in their homes for a while longer. My biggest fear is that this community will begin to become a ghost town with people either being detained or families moving to avoid being detained. I have lived in McFarland my entire life and have made so many friends that would not be able to stay if the detention center was up and running. I feel grateful that I can have the chance to still be able to see them even if it may be for a short while.