Almost two years ago, I wrote a story published in the HuffPost about the silent raids that are disappearing people from our community in South Florida. I am sad to say that the problem has not improved.
Undocumented immigrants continue to be detained and deported during scheduled check-ins at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office in the city of Miramar.
The conditions detailed in my article and by immigrant rights advocates that witness the horrible treatment human beings endure at this facility have also not improved much.
Long lines of people waiting for hours under the hot Florida sun for their immigration check-ins are a common sight. They wait from five in the morning until the evening, with little access to shade except a few tents set up outside the facility. They have no adequate access to water or bathrooms. Small children often get dizzy and suffer from nosebleeds as a result of the heat.
These immigrants used to be deemed a low priority by ICE in the past. They pay taxes, have built families and have work permits. They walk into ICE offices for their check-ins because they want to follow the rules and are often rewarded with detention and deportation.
That was the case for Walter, who was deported this past March after living in the United States for the past thirty years. He was detained at the Miramar facility while attending a routine check-in and immediately transferred to the Krome detention facility where he was eventually deported.
His wife Lily is now alone with her two children, both born in the United States, and desperately needs financial support. These are the families who suffer because of our vicious detention and deportation machine.
The deportation of Argentine immigrant Claudio Rojas made national news recently. Claudio starred in a groundbreaking documentary that exposed injustices at the Broward Transitional Center, a for-profit immigration detention facility operated by GEO Group.
On the eve of the East Coast premiere of the film, he went in for a routine check-in with ICE at the Miramar field office. He was detained by ICE officials and also transferred to the Krome detention center. He was deported soon after, having lived in the United States seventeen years, and leaving behind his wife Liliana and their children.
His family, filmmakers, and lawyers all believe Claudio’s arrest may be political retaliation motivated by his participation in the film.
In the past two years, rallies and press events have repeatedly forced the Miramar ICE facility to temporarily shut down operations. I took part in a civil disobedience action last year that shut down the facility for the day, and resulted in the arrest of seventeen people, including myself.
Every Wednesday, a committed group of activists who call themselves the “circle of protection” show up to provide comfort with self-donated water, coffee, donuts or snacks, and friendship. Their slogan is “comfort, witness and resist.”
Unfortunately, we still are not seeing an adequate response by political leaders in both the city of Miramar and Broward County. As summer inches closer, we can expect warmer weather and more rain. That means miserable conditions for the people who are forced to wait hours for their immigration appointment while exposed to the elements.
We need politicians in Broward County to take a more aggressive approach to the conditions in Miramar. Legal aid clinics and municipal IDs have been proposed as a way to alleviate some of the hardships immigrants in Miramar endure and these initiatives seem to have the support of Mayor Wayne Messam. This is a good start but for the people who face possible deportation and inhumane conditions at the Miramar ICE field office, time is a luxury they cannot afford.
Thomas Kennedy is the political director for FLIC Votes and a communications fellow for Community Change. He tweets from @Tomaskenn.