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McFarland City Council Appoints New Mayor Following Detention Center Controversy



The McFarland City Council appointed a new mayor Thursday to replace former Mayor Manuel Cantu. Cantu quit in February after the city declined a proposal that would allow The GEO Group, Inc. to turn two state prisons into immigration detention centers. GEO has since appealed that decision.

Council member Sally Gonzalez was appointed mayor, but most of the residents who attended the meeting were more concerned about the appeals case. 

“I am here because I want to declare once more that the community is against the expansion of a detention center in the city of McFarland.  I ask you to be on the right side of the people and the right side of history,” said Esmeralda Gonzalez, who has lived in McFarland for 30 years. 

Some residents said they had to stand outside the meeting. Rosa Morales said she was told the room only accommodated 50 people. 

“I asked the police officer kindly if we were able to go in. She said no and I asked her if there would be any way we can listen, but we can’t even get a speaker outside. I felt like as a community member and not being allowed inside was a violation of my rights,” Rosa said. 

The next meeting will be held on March 26 to appoint a replacement for Gonzales’ council position.


Madi Bolanos covered immigration and underserved communities for KVPR from 2020-2022. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border.