The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 76/No. 31      August 20, 2012

Fla. protest at immigration jail
slams arrests, abuse of workers
(front page)
POMPANO BEACH, Fla.—“No papers, no fear!” chanted 75 people outside the Broward Transitional Center here Aug. 5. Many were relatives and friends of inmates at this privately run immigration jail, about 30 miles north of Miami.

“We want a change, we want them to stop separating our families,” Zuri Chávez told the rally. Her father, Jaime Chávez, has been jailed for four months. “I too am undocumented, but I’m not afraid because we’re here together.”

“It’s not fair. Obama said low priority cases would not be deported,” Nelson Reyes told the Militant. “We would like to hold Obama accountable.”

Reyes was referring to the Barack Obama administration’s stated policy that immigration cops would prioritize deporting workers convicted of crimes other than immigration violations.

Reyes’s brother-in-law, Samuel Soto, has been held since May 16. “He was pulled over for no apparent reason on his way to work,” said Reyes. “His driver’s license had expired. Immigration found him in jail and brought him here. He had no criminal record and was working as a landscaper and handyman.” Soto faces deportation to Honduras. His wife and four young children, all U.S. citizens, were at the rally.

Relatives of Vasiliy Melnikov said he was also detained after a traffic stop and are fighting to prevent his deportation to Russia.

Among those leading the action were Marco Saavedra, 22, and Viridiana Martinez, 25, activists with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. Saavedra approached Border Patrol Agents on July 11 and Martinez presented herself at an immigration checkpoint on July 20, disclosing that they were undocumented in order to get arrested and be able to expose conditions in the Broward detention center. They were released Aug. 3.

“Saavedra and Martinez wanted to stay in the detention center and keep organizing” but immigration officials wanted them out, Youth Alliance spokesperson Daniel Alvarado said in a phone interview.

“The 80 women I was detained with for two weeks are the boldest I have met in my life,” Martinez told the rally. “Some have been there for months, some for years. The food here is no good. The guards treat us as if we were their property. And some of the women stand up, demanding, ‘You don’t need to treat us like that!’” They continue to fight, she said, “knowing every day their name could appear on the list” to be deported.

“We know that over 400 detainees refused to eat yesterday,” Saavedra said, “a majority of those being held here.”

After picketing on the sidewalk, many protesters stood in the street outside the jail. Police closed traffic for more than an hour and then arrested Saavedra and three others.

The wife and son of Claudio Rojas both addressed the crowd. Rojas, a landscaper, has been held here for six months after being detained in a traffic stop. “When my dad was arrested, he asked about Obama’s policy” of supposedly not deporting those without criminal records, Emiliano Rojas, 23, told reporters. “The immigration officer told him that was a lie, it was just politics.”

“My dad was helping organize inside,” Rojas told the Militant. “He’s been on a hunger strike for the last 15 days. A couple days ago they separated him from the other prisoners. He is only allowed 30 minutes a day outside his cell, at times when everyone else is locked up. They say it’s for his protection, but it’s to isolate him.”  

Related articles:
Bus ride for immigrant rights begins crisscrossing 10 states
Legalize undocumented workers!
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