Two Activists Infiltrate a Center Where Illegal Immigrants Are Held

Two Activists Infiltrate a Center Where Illegal Immigrants Are Held

It was dusk in late July when a young woman with long, curly brown hair and a gray T-shirt walked up to the guard station at the entrance to Port Everglades, babbling in Spanish. Tears streaked down her cherubic cheeks. The guard on duty, who spoke only English, was baffled.

The woman, 26-year-old Viridiana Martinez, thought to herself, Be as smooth as possible. Hear everything. Watch everything. Take note of everything.

The guard called in a deputy from the Broward Sheriff's Office, who also spoke no Spanish. They exchanged a glance of shared confusion while Martinez carried on.

Immigration activist Viridiana Martinez infiltrated the detention center, but was released after contacting news outlets about the conditions inside.
Monica McGivern
Immigration activist Viridiana Martinez infiltrated the detention center, but was released after contacting news outlets about the conditions inside.
The family of Samuel Resendiz-Lopez is fighting against his upcoming deportation.
Monica McGivern
The family of Samuel Resendiz-Lopez is fighting against his upcoming deportation.

"Yo me quiero regresar," she said over and over. She wanted to be deported.

When a bilingual deputy arrived, Martinez told him tearfully that federal agents had recently sent her husband back to Mexico and that she didn't have enough money to make it on her own in the U.S.

The deputy suggested Martinez could help her family more by staying in the U.S. and working, offering to turn a blind eye if she just walked away. Martinez brushed aside his suggestion and begged for deportation.

Staying in character was difficult. Unbeknown to the authorities, Martinez spoke perfect English. When federal immigration agents arrived, one eyed her suspiciously. He looked at his fellow officers and said in English, "This bitch... She's crazy. She's just turning herself in,'" Martinez recalled during a recent interview in Lake Worth.

Martinez says she was taken to a holding facility, fingerprinted, and asked if she would sign paperwork waiving her right to see a judge in order to expedite the deportation process. She refused.

Around 2 a.m., more than six hours after turning herself in, Martinez was booked into the Broward Transitional Center (BTC) in Pompano Beach. She pulled on the facility-issued sweats and let out a sigh of satisfied disbelief.

The plan had unfolded perfectly.

Martinez doesn't have a husband in Mexico, nor does she want to be deported. She had tricked her way into the Department of Homeland Security's center to see for herself how undocumented immigrants languish for months, sometimes years. A week earlier, fellow immigration activist Marco Saveedra had also been arrested on purpose so he could infiltrate the facility. Together, they planned on exposing its flaws.

The concept of due process is held dear as a central piece of the American justice system. Anyone prosecuted under the criminal code has the right to know the charges against him, to be tried in public by a jury of his peers, and to be appointed a lawyer if he cannot afford one.

But immigration courts operate in the netherworld of administrative law, where the rules are different. Detainees aren't afforded public defenders, and at BTC, a notorious judge oversees their hearings in a courtroom typically without witnesses, where the docket can be obtained only through Freedom of Information Act requests.

For years, word had spread among immigration activists about the plight of those inside the center, which is specifically intended to hold low-priority cases. Despite recent orders for immigration officials to be lenient on immigrants who have no criminal record and may be eligible to stay in the U.S. legally, the center is packed with them. Many are picked up during federal sting operations, then hauled off to BTC, a facility run by the private, controversial prison company the GEO group. Of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's 250 detention facilities, only seven, including BTC, are considered "contracted detention facilities." According to some estimates, BTC gobbles up more than $800,000 a week in taxpayer money when running at maximum occupancy.

While the argument is often made that undocumented immigrants pilfer resources, steal jobs, and cost taxpayers dearly, low-priority cases such as the people detained at BTC are vital to local economies, and many who are employed pay taxes. In 2010, households of undocumented immigrants paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes, according to the Immigration Policy Center.

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have pledged to overhaul the dysfunctional and costly immigration system, but the economy has taken precedence this election year. Until last month, complaints about BTC were met with silence by anyone in a position to change things.

Only after a detainee staged a hunger strike, after Martinez and Saveedra infiltrated the center, and, most recently, after it was revealed that an inmate was raped with a Sharpie marker are members of Congress demanding an extensive case-by-case review of every detainee in BTC.

When not fooling federal agents into detaining her, Martinez is loud and bubbly, dropping terms like "cool beans" and "cray cray" while inserting smiley-face emoticons into text messages. Since the spring, Martinez and about seven other activists from around the country have been staying rent-free at the Lake Worth home of a fellow activist.

Martinez, sitting at the kitchen table in a red shirt that says "Undocumented and Unafraid," says she was born in Monterrey, Mexico. When her father lost his job, he left for the U.S. on a tourist visa, overstayed, and worked in the tobacco fields of North Carolina. A year later, in 1994, when she was 7, Martinez, her sister, and her mom entered the U.S. on tourist visas and joined him.

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I know one of these people and he isn't some innocent little construction worker. He "rents" out other Hispanics taking $3 + off each hour that each works and keeps it for hisself plus using fraudulent insurance he pays to "work under" ....nice long as noone gets hurt... And do u think paying someone to pass you through the driver license process and not check your immigration status is okay??? It is illegal. Period. When I ... A US Citizen do ANYTHING with the government agencies I have to prove who I am or I don't get what I screw the pity party...this jerk even balked at the US Gov showing Pics of his ankle bracelet on his Facebook ...take your tail home if you don't like it!!!!!!


I really don't see the activist part of this. If you're here illegally, there are certain steps you have to go through to go back to where you came from. The offender (person(s) that broke the law/illegal immigrant; whatever you want to call them. Do not get a vote, say so about how our country handles the matter. If it's uncomfortable. Good. It isn't intended to be Club Med. or a vacation. It's intent to process, from start to finish is to deter repeat offenders. There is a process to enter this country LEGALLY. Just because it's been done by millions illegally doesn't mean it's the smart thing to continue to do so. Record numbers have been deported this year, and I expect that number is only going to continue to rise. The unfortunate collateral damage in all this are the children of illegal's born on American soil. Those "anchor babies" as they've been referred to, are US citizens. Their illegal parents, are not. Their parent's used them, essentially and now it's backfired on those that have been deported and their children placed in foster care. Something that should have been thought about had American put it's foot down.  Bottom line? Don't blame the USA. Take responsiblity for your own actions if you're one of the deported. Come here legally. It's been done. I know. Don't take the path of least resistance. You may not be the only people that suffer. Activists my @$$.  Abide by laws. Don't expect them bent to your whims. No one else does. 


Such abuses and policy solutions are highlighed in my book by an immigration judge:

My Trials: Inside America’s Deportation Factories  |

American Immigration Lawyers Association wrote: “With a cast of colorful characters and compelling tales, My Trials: What I Learned in Immigration Court is both a scathing indictment of a broken immigration system that sends vulnerable immigrants back to the perilous situations from which they fled, and a heartfelt call for a return to the values upon which our nation of immigrants was founded.”  VOICE magazine September-October issue

Paperback edition:

theunbegun 3 Like

So when Cubans enter the country illegally they're labeled as "refugees" but then the Mexicans, e.t.c enter the country illegally they're labeled as "illegal aliens".


You gotta love the double standard.



 The difference is there is no persecution in Mexico for your political views or religious and basically Mexico has all freedoms the US has , Cuba doesn't.


 @theunbegun I suggest you read some history before making such an asinine statement.  How can you compare the two?  Seriously? 

robinked 2 Like

These are Not 'Activists'....these are 2 people with an Agenda...An ILLEGAL Agenda...!!!--Why is the Lame Steam Media so enamoured with a Pack of ILLEGAL Invaders & completely Silent in regards to the Majority of Taxpaying, LawAbiding Citizens that are  constantly being Raped & Stolen from by these Invaders....???!!!!!!!!---There IS a Right Way to Immigrate to this Country....Millions have taken that Path & I suggest that these so-called 'activists' can spend their time more productively trying to Educate the ILLEGAL population as to the Right Way of doing things rather than constantly Demanding More Freebies from the Taxpayer AND Demanding that Latinas should get a Pass on ILLEGAL immigration........Sheesh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

shesays 1 Like

Great piece. Too bad there aren't any thought inducing arguments or enlightening comments, just racism. Laws don't equal morality and human rights are for all, not some. I am sorry, though, for all the American citizens waiting, hoping, wishing for a job in the arrid fields or in the shady corners of home depot and are unable to get one because of those damn undocumented immigrants. Especially the ones from Mexico- right cubanogm?

cubanogm 3 Like

What I just said was what Mexico did to me and the USA gave me asylum due to my political association that put me under a death sentence by a cruel and despotic Government.This 52 years ago but I never came illegally nor would I have done it.I have no compassion for illegal aliens specially from Mexico.Arrest them all illegal aliens and deport them asap.

ivxx 2 Like

 @cubanogm typical cuban racism, even if u weren't a "political refugee" you would've eventually fled, the only thing keeping u from being an illegal immigrant is the fact that you are cuban... and it's sad, because i'm cuban myself. But for too long i've sat by and listened to these racist "exiles" who immigrated to this country and openly took all the help they were offered in order to build a life for themselves. Now that they're established, they want to shut the door they walked through to anyone else trying to come through the same way. I hear my friend's fathers and grandfathers talk about people on welfare, forgetting they too were once on welfare. They too were once at the bottom, they too abandoned everything they knew for a chance to be happy and free. What job have you ever lost to an undocumented immigrant?


 @ivxx  @cubanogm I personally have never met any Cuban's that were racists. That's absurd. 

cubanogm 2 Like

Illegal aliens are criminals by just being here illegally.They are breaking USA immigration laws.So they should be arrested and deported.That is what every country in the world does and that includes Mexico and Colombia and Venezuela,etc,etc,etc....So the USA should do the same.It is the proper and fair thing to do for people that are citizens and need a job that now is being held by an illegal alien.It is jusr as simple as that.

sieandme 3 Like

"Undocumented and Unafraid,". And that is the problem. Our laws should be so strong and punishing, that they deter the illegal entry into our Country. I understand some feel we should have "OPEN" borders and just allow all those who wish to migrate here to do so freely. I don't understand those who feel persons who have entered our Country illegally should be rewarded a "Green Card". This is not how you deter one from entereing our Nation illegally. It is how you encourage it.

wigglwagon 3 Like

"The concept of due process is held dear as a central piece of the American justice system. Anyone prosecuted under the criminal code has the right to know the charges against him, to be tried in public by a jury of his peers, and to be appointed a lawyer if he cannot afford one."


Embezzlers are not allowed to keep on embezzling until their day in court. Why are criminal immigrants allowed to keep practicing their crimes? Just letting them out on bail is like leaving embezzlers on the job with access to steal even more. Illegal immigrants should have to await their day in court in their own country.



 @wigglwagon Seriously?  If you're here illegally and being detained by or held over for ICE, you damn well know what you're being charged with/held for.  No brainer.

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