South Florida Town Demands ICE Stop Mistreating Immigrants at Miami's Immigration Office

South Florida Town Demands ICE Stop Mistreating Immigrants at Miami's Immigration Office
Courtesy of Tomas Kennedy

Immigrants are forced to line up before the crack of dawn for scheduled meetings at Miami's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office, which actually sits in Miramar in neighboring Broward County. New Times reported this month that immigrants there were forced to stand in the heat and rain for hours without access to bathrooms or water and must fend off predatory tow truck operators who circle the lot waiting to haul away illegally parked cars. Miramar city officials have issued the ICE property multiple code violations for providing immigrants inadequate parking and for letting the property turn into an weed-filled eyesore.

Now, after city officials toured the ICE office grounds with immigrant activists — and filmed one ICE employee threatening to have one immigrant arrested — Miramar's city commission passed a resolution this week demanding ICE stop mistreating people on the property.

The resolution notes the city's "disappointment with the alleged ill treatment of persons visiting the Facility, including lack of restroom facilities, shelter from the elements, and adequate sitting and waiting areas, and to request that ICE provide additional parking and improve the Facility by adding adequate facilities, shelter, and sitting and waiting areas to accommodate the volume of patrons visiting the Facility daily."
In light of ICE's outsize power as a federal agency, it's unlikely the resolution will have much of an impact. (New Times has asked ICE officials for a formal response.) But the measure does illustrate that the agency's tactics have even upset local lawmakers, who regularly receive complaints about the property and some of the ICE officials who work there.

Local activists say it at least raises the heat on the feds to improve basic conditions for families that need to use the office.

“The Miramar facility has become a local model for violations of human rights and dignity of immigrants," says Yaquelin Lopez, an undocumented mother who is part of a group called the Circle of Protection that provides food and water for the immigrants waiting in line. "This resolution is just one step of many to come that will demonstrate that no ICE facility is above the law and that they must provide basic, decent services to people.”

Activists with the Florida Immigrant Coalition and other pro-immigration groups have warned that so-called silent raids are occurring at the ICE facility, in which people who show up for routine immigration check-ins are being arrested once they enter the building and subsequently placed in deportation proceedings. Earlier this month, New Times published video that showed tow truck drivers harassing immigrants waiting outside the facility.

Miramar provided New Times with code complaints the city filed against the ICE facility; the federal government is technically leasing the land from an Ohio company that specializes in renting properties to the government. ICE's Miami spokesperson denied that the federal agency called the trucks. A spokesperson for the U.S. General Services Administration, which manages federal buildings, also denied the agency ordered the tows.

Earlier this week, ICE officials in Miami announced that a Cuban man in their custody died Monday. ICE did not reveal the cause of death or the reason for detaining him but did say he had been held at the nearby Krome Service Processing Center since January 12. (A 2015 New Times investigation detailed claims of widespread abuse and mistreatment at ICE's Krome facility.)

Furthermore, when immigrant activists toured the ICE's Miramar facility with city officials, the organizers filmed one Miami ICE employee threatening to arrest an immigrant who'd somehow stepped out of line:
Though deportation arrests have not come close to reaching the historical peak they reached under President Barack Obama, ICE arrests spiked in 2017 after multiple years of decline. According to the Pew Research Center, no state saw a larger jump in ICE apprehensions than Florida, where immigration seizures rose 76 percent from 2016 to 2017. Immigration activists warn that an alarming number of the people apprehended had no criminal records.

ICE only recently moved its Miami office to Miramar in 2015. City officials warned in their resolution that conditions had deteriorated by the next year.

"In 2016, there was a noticeable change in services being offered at the Facility, which significantly increased the volume of patrons visiting the site daily," the resolution reads.
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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.