The Worst Things ICE and Border Protection Have Done in Miami This Past Year

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Florida saw the nation's largest spike in immigrant arrests in 2017. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement apprehensions shot up 75 percent after Donald Trump took office. Though the U.S. is still arresting and deporting far fewer people than it did under Barack Obama, the fact is that the vast majority of people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its sister agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), are either nonviolent criminals or not criminals at all. They're simply people living their lives in America, trying to watch episodes of Planet Earth on Netflix, and buying diapers at Costco.

But the year-over-year spike in apprehensions in the context of Trump's daily, ugly xenophobia have put a very necessary spotlight on the nation's horrific deportation machine. Trump has directed ICE to hunt down undocumented immigrants who haven't even committed crimes, and the Miami area has seen more than its fair share of arrests, detentions, and outright abuses by border agents. There's now a growing movement to abolish ICE and CBP.

To help explain why, here's a list of the worst ICE in South Florida over the past year:

1. CBP combed Greyhound buses for undocumented immigrants.

Last week, a video went viral showing a Jamaican-born grandmother being hauled off a Greyhound bus at a Fort Lauderdale station. The woman was returning from visiting her grandchild for the first time in Orlando, according to activists who mounted a campaign to pressure the bus line to stop granting federal agents access to randomly demand papers from its customers.

If either Greyhound or U.S. Customs and Border Protection was swayed by the outrage over that arrest, it didn't stop the exact same thing from happening yesterday at the very same bus station.

A new video shows CPB agents hauling a man in handcuffs off a Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale after demanding papers from passengers on the bus. The Trinidad-born man has lived in Miami for more than 12 years with no criminal record and was headed to Fort Myers to see his best friend, according to the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), which shared the video.

2. ICE deported this Haitian activist for speaking out against the agency.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Manhattan's Washington Square Park yesterday to protest the U.S. ICE detention of two of the city's most prominent immigrant activists: Ravi Ragbir and Jean Montrevil. The two run the city's New Sanctuary Coalition, a group that helps families fight deportation. Immigrant advocates say ICE is retaliating against the two men for speaking out against the federal government. The day Ragbir was detained, 18 protesters were arrested for civil disobedience, including New York City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Jumaane Williams.

But while New York City's activists have rallied in the streets all week to fight what they say are inhumane and discriminatory tactics, Miami has largely not noticed the two men are being held at ICE's Krome Service Processing Center in Southwest Miami-Dade.

3. Immigrants' cars were towed outside Miami's ICE building in Miramar.

A long line of immigrants forms in the predawn hours every morning outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Miramar, and once a week, a small group of activists hands out coffee, water, and supplies to them. Today was Laurie Woodward Garcia's first day protesting with the group. She was sickened by the scene: Immigrants told her they'd begun lining up at 4 a.m. but were still waiting outdoors in the heat past noon.

"What I saw was horrifying," she tells New Times. "There was no water, no bathrooms for these people."

Then the tow trucks arrived. Garcia whipped out her phone and began filming: She says the truck operator, working with the company Broward Towing, was circling the property, hitching up cars outside the lots, waiting for immigrants to sprint out of line and yell for their cars to be released, and then asking for cash upfront to let the vehicles go.

4. CBP arrested someone at a food-sharing event for the homeless.

Food Not Bombs, the food-sharing organization dedicated to helping the homeless, impoverished, and needy, has long claimed that South Florida police keep tabs on their organization and occasionally harass people stopping by to get food.

But the group's activists say they were particularly stunned yesterday when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection car drove past a food-share in Lake Worth's Bryant Park just before noon. Activists say that agents had been "creeping around the park" and that a CBP car rolled by the crowd slowly as if the officers were scanning the crowd for potential targets. The car vanished and then allegedly came back slowly in the opposite direction.

Then, around 11:45 a.m., two Border Patrol agents in green vests exited their cruiser, grabbed someone who'd just finished a free meal, and threw him into the back of the car.

5. Guards at a Florida ICE detention facility are allegedly torturing Somali detainees.

In December, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 92 Somali immigrants — many of them longtime U.S. residents with families, homes, and jobs. The feds loaded them onto an airplane, kept the immigrants chained in the sky for 48 straight hours as the plane took off from Louisiana for Somalia, stopped inexplicably in Senegal, turned around, and landed in Miami. The men say ICE guards beat them and harassed them the entire time, and many say they were denied access to the bathroom and forced to relieve themselves in their seats. (ICE denies the claims.)

Though some of the immigrants have been transferred to detention centers closer to their homes, 52 of them are still housed at the Glades County Detention Center just west of Lake Okeechobee.

But the Somalis say their mistreatment hasn't ended back in U.S. custody. Lawyers for the group filed formal administrative complaints with ICE January 8 that say the detainees have been denied medical care, called racial slurs including the N-word, illegally thrown into solitary confinement, and even excessively pepper-sprayed.

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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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