Hundreds of field workers and other residents stood outside McFarland’s City Council chambers Tuesday night chanting in Spanish “No ICE! No GEO! We’re farmworkers, not delinquents,” The New York Times reports. At issue was a multibillion-dollar corporation’s proposal to convert two state prisons slated for closure into detention centers for undocumented immigrants, operated under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement — a plan that city leaders said could provide the impoverished town with a financial lifeline.
A new law in California outlawing private prisons will cost the city $1.5 million a year in taxes and other fees paid by the prison corporation, the GEO Group, unless the company can convert the two facilities it has operated there into immigration detention centers. McFarland, which gained its only previous measure of fame in the 2015 Kevin Costner movie, “McFarland, USA,” is home to thousands of workers who toil in the vineyards and the almond, pistachio and citrus orchards that stretch out in every direction. Up to half of the city’s 15,000 residents, according to private estimates, are undocumented — the very kind of people who might be housed behind bars in the facilities that until now have been sheltering criminals.