Marta Giraldo says the sound of heavy pounding on her front door woke her up Thursday morning at 6:19.
Giraldo stumbled from bed in her pajamas and ran to the door. "Where are you going, mi amor?" her husband, Clovis DaSilva, mumbled sleepily.
"Open the door! Police!" Giraldo heard. But she was totally unprepared for what happened. When she opened the door, INS or ICE agents -- she thinks -- poured into the house. According to Giraldo, they showed her no identification. "Who are you? What is this for?" she asked them again and again. They told her they would be taking her and her husband in for questioning. All they would say was that somebody had "disappeared."
Ten agents had pulled up in two unmarked white vans two hours before and surrounded Giraldo's house.
They'd poked through the back yard and questioned Giraldo's neighbors, asking them if "Brazilians" lived there. Giraldo is an American citizen born in Colombia. She married DaSilva two years ago. The 50-year-old DaSilva, who works cleaning offices and warehouses, is described by neighbors and his friend Annika Carman as "a good man." He'd never been in any trouble. He was in the process of getting his green card. He had lived legally in the States since 1999; he'd taken the necessary steps -- obtaining a work permit and a social security card, having his fingerprints taken. The middle-aged couple lived quietly in a neat Pompano Beach bungalow, never expecting trouble. Two weeks ago, Giraldo says, they'd received a letter saying DaSilva needed to resubmit his fingerprints because one of the prints was illegible.
And then this. Annika Carman says she and her good friend Marta Giraldo have "no clue" why DaSilva was arrested. Carman speculates that it may be a case of mistaken identity. That morning, Giraldo was forced to change her clothes and go to the bathroom under the eyes of two female agents. When she kneeled down to look under the bed for her citizenship papers, agents tackled and handcuffed her, imagining that she was looking for weapons. Meanwhile, agents were questioning her husband in the living room. When they discovered that Giraldo was a citizen, one agent told the others, "We can't take her." But they cuffed DaSilva and dragged him out into one of the waiting vans without reading him his rights or answering Giraldo's frantic questions. "Give me some peace of mind," Giraldo cried after them as her husband was hustled away. "Tell me who has disappeared?"
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It took Giraldo two days of frantic phone calls and trips to an attorney to finally learn that her husband was detained at Broward Transition Center on North Powerline Road. But as of this morning, five days later, she still has not spoken to him. She has no information about why her husband was taken or whether he has been charged with any crime. All she knows is what the INS agents told her: that someone "had disappeared."
Marta thinks she knows the identity of the person who "disappeared" now. It is her husband who has vanished -- she wonders if she will ever see him again.
"I never believed that something like this could happen in the United States," Annika Carman says.
We spoke briefly with Giraldo's attorney this morning and expect to hear from her lawyers later this afternoon. We'll update as we get new information.