Broward News

DREAM Activist Infiltrates Pompano Detention Center, Says Dozens of Immigrants Held in "Terrible Conditions"

On Wednesday, Viridiana Martinez picked up a phone at the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach and called Amy Goodman at Democracy Now. Martinez, a 26-year-old DREAM activist working with the National Youth Immigrant Alliance, calmly explained that she intentionally got her self detained a few weeks ago so she could bear witness to the horrific situation inside the facility.

During the brief interview, Martinez said the facility, which is run by private firm GEO, is packed with dozens of immigrants who have been living in "terrible conditions." Martinez emphasized that these are "low priority" cases, the exact type President Obama said will not be deported and shouldn't be detained. Yet some of them have been held at the Broward facility for nearly two years simply for being pulled over with a busted taillight.

The National Youth Immigrant Alliance has been highly critical of the detention center. It has circulated a petition that demands a "full and immediate review of all detainees at the Broward Transitional Center and the release of anyone who meets the criteria of the June 17, 2011, low-priority discretion memo as laid out by John Morton, director of ICE."

Since infiltrating the detention center, the National Youth Immigrant Alliance said it has found people who should be immediately released because they either have no criminal record, are DREAM Act eligible youth, were detained solely on the grounds of racial profiling, have extreme medical conditions, or some combination of the above.

Martinez previously told Democracy Now that though she has lived in the U.S. since she was 7, she turned herself in at Port Everglades and was promptly detained by Border Control. From there, she was shuttled over to Pompano, where she has been since July 20.

Martinez said that medical care in the facility is atrocious and that officers regularly mock the detainees. Although the most recent interview is just a few minutes long, it's startling.

The National Youth Immigrant Alliance has listed the names and backgrounds of dozens of people detained at the center on its petition page. Here are a few samples:

Felipe Garcia, originally from Mexico, has been living in Florida for over 13 years. On April 26, 2012, Felipe was detained dropping off his wheelchair bound son at school, after leaving the parking lot he was pulled over by an officer without any reason. The police officer called ICE on the spot and Felipe was taken directly to Broward. Felipe has never been in trouble with anyone.

Cesar Hidalgo, originally from Ecuador, has been living in Florida for over 20 years. Hidalgo is 52, he has two children, both green card holders, aged 30 and 25. Earlier this summer Hidalgo was detained by ICE after hotel security called police while he was passing out flyers. He has never been in trouble with anyone.

Jose Luis Vasquez, originally from Honduras, has been living in Florida for over 8 years. Jose is another victim of being nothing more than a passenger in a vehicle. His friend was pulled over after their tail-light went out on the turn pike, all 4 passengers were detained by ICE. Jose has never had any trouble with anyone.

Jaime Pena, originally from Mexico, has been living in Florida for over 18 years. Jaime has never been in trouble with anyone, in fact he was detained for merely being a passenger in a car. Jaime does not know why the car was pulled over, the police officer wouldn't give them a reason. Jaime has been detained since May of 2012.

Marco Moss, originally from Mexico, has been living in Florida since he was 15-years old. Marco is DREAM Act eligible, he had scheduled taking his GED two-months after he was detained. Marco has been detained since July 2nd for driving without a license.

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Chris Sweeney