Mesa Verde

The operator of the Mesa Verde immigration detention center on Golden State Avenue is GEO Group Inc.

Facing an economic crisis, the McFarland City Council voted to allow a private prison company to convert two state prisons into detention centers for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a virtual meeting Thursday.

In two 4-0 votes, with Councilman Stephen McFarland recusing himself due to a conflict of interest, the council voted to allow the immigrant detention centers.

The issue has generated fierce debate in the city.

Interim City Manager Larry Penell laid out the city’s position early in the meeting. He said the the detention centers would generate $500,000 in mitigation fees and $50,000 in direct support to police and fire support. With the city in dire financial straits, he said McFarland could hardly afford to lose $36 million in local payroll and $500,000 in property taxes.

He urgently recommended the city adopt the proposition.

“Let’s allow these out-of-town protesters to return to their communities while we accept to save ours,” he said, referring to the individuals and groups who have opposed the facilities.

The private prison company, GEO Group Inc., had submitted two proposals for permit changes for the Golden State Modified Community Correctional Facility and the Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility, which had been used by the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation for state inmates.

GEO proposed to convert both 700-bed facilities into annexes of the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, which it also operates for ICE.

The McFarland Planning Commission initially denied GEO’s proposals. After a large showing of protesters attended a meeting in February, a pair of tie votes by the commission doomed the effort.

However, GEO appealed the Planning Commission’s decision directly to the City Council, bringing the issue before the governing body on Thursday.

GEO Vice President David Venturella spoke in support of the company during the meeting. He said GEO would support the community with the two facilities, not only through taxes and usage fees, but also by providing 420 jobs locally.

He also promised a $1,000 scholarship to all graduating seniors in the city moving on to college or vocational school from the moment the detention centers opened through the duration of their 15-year federal contract.

Multiple advocate organizations and residents opposed the detention centers, saying GEO and ICE’s values did not match the Latino-majority community of McFarland, and residents would grow more fearful — potentially to the point of leaving — if ICE expanded into the city.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California sent a letter to city officials, saying an April 9 council meeting in which the public could not attend in person violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and they anticipated further violations during Thursday’s meeting.

Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Freedom For Immigrants also sent a joint letter to McFarland officials, claiming public notice requirements had not been met in violation of state law. The groups said the state requires cities to wait 180 days after first posting public notice about potential use changes for buildings by private corporations before acting on the proposed change. The letter says McFarland first posted notice in January, well short of the 180 day requirement.

“GEO officials have justified their presence in the McFarland community largely on economic grounds,” Freedom For Immigrants Policy Monitor Cynthia Galaz wrote in prepared comments for the meeting. “GEO promises jobs and economic stimulus. But in reality, GEO only delivers bad, underpaid jobs and fails to deliver on its promises for community investment.”

In addition, the groups claimed the City Council was required to hold two public meetings before approving the permits. Although the Planning Commission held two meetings, the groups said the City Council needed to hold two additional meetings as well.

Both letters brought up the possibility of litigation if the city failed to their demands, raising the prospect of a protracted legal fight.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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(8) comments


Money makes good people do evil things.

Jerry Todd

The Diocese of Fresno is blessed to have its new Bishop. I met him briefly at a prayer breakfast in Bakersfield about the time he visited McFarland. We had a picture taken together, and I followed it up with a letter on another vitally important matter to those faithful Catholics in Bakersfield.

I made my feelings known about the ICE Detention Center in a post on this site on 4/21. Part of that addressed the situation around the infamous Delano Grape boycott where Church leaders and Democrat politicians joined in parades led by banners of Our Lady of Guadlupe and mass murderer Che Guevara. Those farm workers were rejected who stood against that blasphemy against the Mother of Jesus who delivered them from the human sacrificing rule of the Aztecs. I stand on that position without contesting his excellency's reasons for not wanting more jails in Kern County. We also are forced to take Los Angeles sewage sludge. One good thing about an ICE detention center is the occupants' very temporary status, subject to enemies of the nation and the Church fight to turn them loose without proper vetting. It is not intended as a long term place for incarceration. We would hope the residents are swiftly returned to their home countries that also need people to help change the reasons they felt obligated to break our sovereign laws. We hope to see many of them again as they pass through the big wide welcoming gate of citizenship President Trump offered and was vilified for.

I would take umbrage with His Holiness Pope Francis viewpoint of our system and denial of our strong efforts over the years to clean up our environment by free enterprise, not socialistic schemes of radical environmentalists and socialist one world government advocates. I've been in that battle over 45 years with cogent solutions to save water and energy while cleaning up our prior messes. These efforts, mine in a very minor way, but those heroes who who have done and strive to do so much more than I can ever dream of.

Pope Francis' predecessor Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, "Caritas in veritate" - Charity in truth, "58. The principle of subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa, since the former without the latter gives way to social privatism, while the latter without the former gives way to paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need." There is no nation on earth that has applied these principles in unison to the success of many and the protection of all that choose to put their shoulders to the wheel than the United States of America. I also believe it has proven over the years to be an amazing place for Catholic principles to be applied. It's not a zero sum game. We are learning with this current pandemic that shutting down an economy is destructive to all as the infinite range of God-given gifts and talents are set aside or destroyed. St. Thomas Aquinas said, "It takes two things to live a righteous life, a righteous heart and the means to act righteously." There are too many forces that seek to destroy both, always posing with an air of arrogant self-righteousness. We will protect our sovereign nation that has long proven her righteous heart and has this been blessed with the means to act righteously. Welcome aboard, Your Excellency. You are needed to shepherd your people.

She Dee

I don't know if I want to cry or cheer for another type of institutional incarceration endeavor. I just hope it will treat the people with respect instead of denegration.


Question: Would you commit adultery with me for one million dollars?

Answer: Well sure.

Question: Would you commit adultery with me for one dollar?

Answer: Heck NO. What do you think I am?

Rebuttal: We already know what you are, we’re just arguing over price


Except that protecting our borders, analogous to keeping strangers out of the marriage bed, is the opposite of adultery.

Jerry Todd

Wise move by McFarland for fiscal and practical reasons. The USA must have soveriegnty over it's borders and the protection of it's citizens and invited guests, which include many itinerant farm workers.

In it's heyday, the United Farm Workers, UFW lobbied with the help of radical Democrats to kill the Bracero program for guest Ag workers. It was important if the UFW was to have control over the agricultural work force. Illegals, as we all know, are too hard to control, especially for a union trying to collect dues and make growers and processors lives miserable.

This is an import part of returning job security to our farm workers, citizens or invited guest workers. The Democrats have fought this process for decades, while they have convinced most Latinos to vote their way. This is changing as these people of family and faith realize the depravity of the Democrat party today.

Now if we could still curb the political power of the UFW in Sacramento, even though they represent very few today. Having a sympathetic ear from the Democrat super majority, they are digging all our graves because that super majority insists on killing the ag, oil and building industries in the Central Valley. Cutting off irrigation water and suing the Trump Administration that is trying to restore water flow, over-regulating the oil industry and enforcing new CEQUA regs to kill the housing industry, has to wake up Californians who still love this state. #Walkaway


I bet the local domestic terrorist Delores is pissed.


Lots of truth in that statement.

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