A routine encounter outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Miramar turned hostile yesterday when a security guard threatened to pepper-spray activists bringing water and juice for children in line.
The confrontation happened yesterday morning by a gated entrance off SW 29th Street, where a group of activists approached a guard working for Triple Canopy, a private security firm. Ever since a fence was erected around the ICE facility a few months ago, activists and protesters have been unable to enter the premises freely, so they've relied on the good graces of guards to speak with immigrants or offer them drinks, diapers, and food. But yesterday, security was not having it.
Authorities at the Miramar ICE deportation center just threatened activists with pepper spray for trying to pass out juice and water to children who are forced to stand in line for hours under the hot FL sun with no proper access to shade or bathrooms. Cruelty is the point. pic.twitter.com/2qk3SlvNbg— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) December 11, 2019
Two of the activists can be seen interacting with the guard and requesting to be allowed inside the gate to offer refreshments to children waiting in line for their immigration check-in with ICE. Meanwhile, a third activist, Maria Bilbao, hangs back to film the exchange.
The guard tells the two they need an appointment to enter and then points them away before barking, "We have protesters here," into a microphone hanging from his shirt. The two activists clarify they're not protesters and ask again to be allowed to enter. That's when things get heated.
Activist Dami Feral asks the guard: "Would it hurt to give some water to the kids?"
The guard tells the pair to go away and then reaches for his belt, grabs a canister of pepper spray, and shakes it.
"Or you're going to pepper-spray me?" asks Feral, flabbergasted. "Are you kidding me?"
"Nope, and I'll have you arrested," the guard answers before repeating into the mike on his shirt that he "has protesters." He then walks the group away from the gate and down the sidewalk while chanting, "Leave the facility."
The video cuts off there, but Feral tells New Times the guard ended up calling the Miramar Police Department, which sent two officers to speak with the group. No arrests were made and no one was hurt, but Feral says he can't believe the guard's response.
"We've had issues getting in since they put the fence up. There would occasionally be a guard with an actual soul who would let us in, while others were more confrontational. But nothing ever like this," he says. "What kind of person gets so angry, so aggressive at the idea of human beings bringing water to a dehydrated child on the other side of a fence?"
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Constellis, Triple Canopy's parent company, did not respond to New Times' request for comment on the video.
ICE's Miramar facility has become infamous for its long lines, scarce shade, and limited parking and restrooms available to accommodate the hundreds of immigrants waiting outside on any given day. Activists with the group Miramar Circle of Protection, including Feral and Bilbao, visit the facility to assist undocumented people and field any complaints they may have about their treatment inside.
"I've dealt with intimidation by guards before, but never anything like this," says Bilbao, who also organizes with the immigration advocacy group United We Dream. "This is a place where you need patience — many people are scared, confused, or don't speak English very well. That guard obviously was not trained for the situation."
In March, Bilbao was at the center of another dustup with authorities, in which she accused officers with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service of racially profiling drivers before stopping them and asking for identification.