City Council members reached an impasse Tuesday when voting whether to renew a controversial city contract that would allow Santa Ana Jail to house detainees before being screened by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
With Vicente Sarmiento absent, an even 3-3 council vote ended any hopes of reviving the ICE contract. Mayor Miguel Pulido, Council member Jose Solorio and Jose Villegas voted in favor of renewing the contract. Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez, David Benavides, and Sal Tinajero dissented.
Approval of the contract could have run counter to Santa Ana’s recent decision to declare itself a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants. The proposed contract, which was introduced by Solorio — a former Rancho Santiago Community College District trustee — would have revived the ICE contract, which was due to sunset at the end of May.
The contract was originally set to expire in 2020 but was cancelled after Santa Ana Jail reduced the number of ICE detainees from 200 to 128. ICE then abruptly decided to terminate the contract on Feb. 23 by issuing a 90-day notice to the city of Santa Ana.
“I urge you all to reject this and to move forward and uphold your values as a sanctuary city,” Hairo Cortes, Program Coordinator for Orange County Immigrant Youth United, told council members Tuesday night.
The night continued with community leaders and local residents expressing their concerns with the potential revival of the contract. Solorio became a target for those voicing out their frustrations.
“Some of you unfortunately don’t know what real hurt is. You don’t know that when a detention occurs you want your families to be local,” said Solorio, explaining why he introduced the item.
Solorio’s remarks were met with uproar. Protesters shouted, “Sell out!” and “Vendido!” which translates to “sold,” implying that Solorio’s influence has been bought by special interests.
They later started chanting “Latino Trump,” at Solorio, forcing the council into recess as they attempted to calm the raucous crowd.
Earlier in the evening, the council debated an ordinance that would regulate where food trucks can operate within city limits. It doesn’t ban the trucks, City Attorney Sonia Carvalho said, quelling rumors that it would eliminate the thriving industry.
The future of the ordinance has brick and motor restaurateurs worried.
“I would like for this ordinance to pass. I believe in fair competition [and] this is not fair competition for a restaurant,” said Arturo Cervantes, a Santa Ana business owner who’s afraid food truck vendors parking in front of his restaurant are detracting potential customers from walking in the door.
The ordinance will be up for final approval March 21.