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Broward Transitional Center: More Abuse Reported. Saturday Protest Planned

Angel Raymundo's odyssey began in the style of B. Traven, fleeing the highlands of Guatemala in search of a life beyond subsistence. It ended like something out of Franz Kafka, ground up and cast aside by an impenetrable bureaucracy.

It's a common story here lately, one detainee after another accusing the GEO Group's prison for profit, the Broward Transition Center, of medical neglect. Angel's claim has the support of the government of Guatemala

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Expelled November 1 after months of suffering at the Pompano Beach facility, Angel's recuperating now in a Lake Worth sanctuary home, still in pain and nursing a hernia the size of a baseball. It's a condition he says GEO left untreated -- except for some Advil -- for three months. 

Angel comes from Huehuetenango, a municipality in Guatemala's far northwest, on the Mexican border, where his family survived on the corn and beans they raised. Born 38 years ago, he's old enough to remember the nation's brutal civil wars, hiding with his parents in the mountains outside town as the military rained bombs down on local insurgents. More recently, the area has been a center of large-scale drug-trafficking violence.

Six years ago, after leaving home for Tequisate, where he worked the banana fields, Angel chose to trek north to the U.S. Did he apply for a visa?

"They don't give just anyone a visa," he explained through a translator. "You need a lot of money for that. A businessman, or if you own farms in Guatemala -- sure. We're poor."

Guided by coyotes, he traveled by bus through Mexico, swam across the U.S. border near Miguel Aleman, and walked hours through the desert to McAllen, Texas. 

"We came here with nothing," he said. "No money. No food. The only clothing we had was what we were wearing."

Angel made his way north to Houston, to a sort of undocumenteds holding pen, from which some 300 or so immigrants were dispersed across the nation to California, New York and Florida -- to do low-paid, benefit-free jobs. Arriving in Fort Myers, he found work doing lawn care, then carpentry in a wood products shop. That company went broke, and he moved on to a car wash.

Last April 31, still living in Fort Myers, threatened and assailed by a drunk on the street, Angel took the risk of calling 911 for help. With predictable irony, he ended up detained for lack of papers. Unable to make the $1,000 bond, on May 11 he was transferred to BTC.

His medical issues began there over the summer. After a month of increasing pain, in July he was taken to a specialist who recommended reparative hernia surgery. BTC failed to act on that, and Angel's condition went untreated, even after a September emergency-room visit to North Broward Medical Center.

Still under deportation order, without funds for medical care, Angel was booted from BTC on November 1 to a legal and medical limbo. Local activists have located a reasonably priced surgeon and have a fundraising effort under way.

Was Angel's hard path worth traveling?

"I have faith in God I'll get surgery here," he said. "Deportation or not, I don't know. Everyone knows it's a big risk. But life back home is very poor, and we work hard here to seek progress and to send money home."

To pressure BTC on behalf of detainees like Angel and to protest the whole unnecessary, costly, and counterproductive business of detention and deportation of immigrants whose only real crime is poverty, a rally and demonstration is set for tomorrow. 

Families of detainees from around South Floridan and as far off as Tampa will be converging in front of BTC from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to demand the freedom of their loved ones. Sponsored by the NIYA (National Immigrant Youth Alliance) and DreamActivist Florida, local contact for the protest is Radym Berlinger, at 561-876-9035. 

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback of a tip? Contact [email protected]

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