Plopped on an industrial stretch of Powerline Road in Pompano Beach, BTC looks docile, even cozy. Coats of soft-pink exterior paint and an absence of discernible security measures — no spools of barbed wire, no looming guard towers, an open front gate — create the illusion of a pricey rehab center or a boarding school for troubled teens. Even the name, Broward Transitional Center, is a well-crafted misdirect.

Acosta said that this past March, around 5 a.m., his family was awakened by a harsh knock at the door of its Margate home. His father answered, and in stepped two men wearing suits. "They just started asking for social security numbers and names of everyone," Acosta laments.

He, his two brothers, and their father are in the U.S. legally, but his mother, who had moved to the U.S. 15 years ago to escape violence in El Salvador, never got proper papers. "Once she said her name, Maria Caballero, the men said they had to take her," he says. She was hauled out of the house on the spot and has been in BTC for roughly seven months. Broward court records show that women with that name have only traffic infractions.

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.

Acosta's account is almost impossible to confirm or deny because ICE reports on removal operations aren't public record, according to agency spokesman Nestor Yglesias.

Samuel Resendiz-Lopez's wife and three teenaged daughters were also protesting. His 17-year-old daughter, Samantha, said her dad, a construction worker who has been in the U.S. for 19 years, was at a rest stop coming home from work when federal customs officials profiled him and asked for proof of citizenship. Samantha said he was released a few weeks ago without ever seeing a judge. He now wears an ankle bracelet and has been told to prepare for deportation. Resendiz-Lopez has no criminal record, according to a search of Broward and Palm Beach court files.

Susana Barciela, policy director of Americans for Immigrant Justice, a Miami-based nonprofit that provides free legal services to detainees, says it's absurd to hold low-priority immigrants. "By definition, BTC detainees have committed no crimes or only minor infractions," she said in an email. "They are precisely the population that ICE should release or not detain in the first place — people who pose no threat to their communities."

Barciela says that in September 2011, federal immigration agents stood outside a cosmetology exhibition at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center and asked people for proof of citizenship. Given that many immigrant women work in the field, it was easy pickings. Agents arrested anyone whose documents didn't pass muster. "To the best of our knowledge, none of the women arrested had histories of prior criminal convictions," Barciela says.

A spokeswoman with Customs and Border Protection, the enforcement agency of DHS, says there are no records of such an event.

It's not just activists who say ICE shouldn't be funneling finite resources into detaining low-priority cases. In 2011, in the face of budgetary woes, John Morton, national head of ICE, issued three memos that set priorities for the agency. He specified they should focus efforts on undocumented people who werefugitives, who recently entered the U.S., and/or who posed a danger to national security or public safety. He discouraged officers and prosecutors from going after noncitizens who were either victims or witnesses of crimes or who would qualify for the DREAM Act. In June, President Obama told the agency to stop deporting immigrants who would qualify for the DREAM Act.

Why, then, is the Broward Transitional Center packed with people who fit the mold of low-priority cases?

"Low priority doesn't mean no priority," said Marc Moore, the sharp, hawk-eyed ICE field officer for BTC who guided New Times on a tour of the center. "These people are in violation of immigration law... We don't house violent criminals or those with known violent tendencies here. But there could be people who have committed white-collar crimes or other offenses."

Broward Transitional Center was built in the 1990s by the controversial security firm Wackenhut, which changed its name to the GEO Group in 2003. At first, the facility housed inmates taking part in a work-release program run by the Broward Sheriff's Office, Moore says. In 2007, BSO moved out and ICE moved in.

At full capacity, BTC can hold 595 men and 105 women. Architecturally, it's less like a prison and more like an overly sterile, closely monitored, very quiet motel. Each room sleeps six on three sets of bunk beds. There are air conditioners and private bathrooms with a tub and shower, though the doors don't lock.

Moore showed off the flat-screen televisions in detainee rooms that have 32 channels, boasted about the outdoor fitness equipment, and touted the fact that detainees can earn a dollar a day if they volunteer for odd jobs, from working the mess hall to clipping hair at the barber shop.

Men are issued bright-orange jumpers, while women get gray sweats. A courtyard separates the sexes, the women relegated to a single hallway on the second floor of one building. That day, a pungent cafeteria served fried chicken for lunch. There are offices for attorney-client meetings, an intake room, and one courtroom, which New Times wasn't allowed to view during the visit because it falls under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department's Executive Office of Immigration Review.

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15 comments
palmbeachnotary
palmbeachnotary

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 right...as 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 need...so 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!!!!!!

fall9
fall9

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. 

Shanghai6969
Shanghai6969

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

My Trials: Inside America’s Deportation Factories  | http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0054S7G0U

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:  https://www.createspace.com/3850094

theunbegun
theunbegun like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 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.

peterperez1976
peterperez1976

 @theunbegun

 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.

fall9
fall9

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

robinked
robinked like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 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
shesays like.author.displayName 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
cubanogm like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 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
ivxx like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 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?

fall9
fall9

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

cubanogm
cubanogm like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 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
sieandme like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 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
wigglwagon like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 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.

 

fall9
fall9

 @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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