Undocumented immigrants face arrest at scheduled check-ins
MIRAMAR — Undocumented immigrants are facing both increased raids at home and arrests during regular check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to ICE, 41,318 immigrants here illegally have been arrested for deportation in the first four months of 2017, an increase of 38 percent over the first four months of last year, when there were 30,028. Of them, some 10,800 have no criminal record, an increase of 153 percent over the same time period last year, when therewere about 4,200.
The increases represent a
‘We won’t tolerate one more deportation.’ Maria Bilbao, UnitedWe Dream
new, broader mandate under the Trump administration to arrest and deport any immigrants who enter the country illegally. Under the previousadministration, those with no criminal records and those who crossed the border illegally as children were largely exempted.
“ICE continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. However, ICE will no longer exempt entire classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” said Nestor Yglesias, Public Affairs Officer for ICE’s Miamioffice. “All those in violation of immigration law may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
The deportation of immigrants who have committed no crime other than an illegal border crossing, and who are in some cases seeking asylum or who have obtained work visas, has drawn the ire of activists. They had a news conference Friday outside the Miramar ICE facility, where several such arrests have taken place.
“We’re here to denounce the silent raids, a new practice of the Trump administration,” said Maria Bilbao, ofUnitedWe Dream, an umbrella organization for immigration activists.
Bilbao highlighted the
cases of two undocumented Nicaraguan men, Espilvio Sanchez-Benavidez and CharlieRodriguez. They were arrested and deported in separate incidents after showing up to the Miramar facility for required check-ins. Both were deported last month. Neither had a criminal record. Sanchez-Benavidez had been seeking asylum; Rodriguez had received a visa to work as a church minister.
The activists said that when they brought the deportations to the attention of U.S. Rep. Ileana RosLehtinen, R-Miami, her office responded that it was aware of five similar deportations occurring in oneweek in mid-April.
“We won’t tolerate one more deportation. United We Dreamis ready to escalate here in Florida andwe warn ICE that we will do everything in our capacity to stop these disgusting practices that are separating our families,” Bilbao said.
The deportations have caused other asylum seekers who regularly check in at the Miramar facility to believe they could be next.
Jenny Martinez arrived in the United States three months ago from Ecuador. She wears an ankle monitor applied by ICE, and is trying to get asylum. She fled with her son, William, and says her husband is a gang member who was violent with her.
Martinez said thatwhen she first arrived in Florida, she was relieved to find “a place where there is no fear, where no one’s hitting me anymore.”
But since her interactions with ICE at the Miramar facility, she says she lives in fear of being sent back to Ecuador.
“After running away from criminals, I come to the country of liberty to be treated like a criminal,” she said.
She has no money to hire a lawyer to get asylum papers in order, and pleaded with immigration officials to streamline the process and for sympathetic attorneys to help her with her case.
“We’re willing to escalate, we’re willing to do rallies, shut down this detention center, not just a press conference but with marches, rallies and civil disobedience if it’s necessary,” said Ricardo Campos, regional field director ofUnitedWe Dream.
But for now, as more immigrants come in for their check-ins, the organization intends to travel with them to the center to witness and provide “a circle of protection.”
Campos said that if immigrants are arrested while the activists are there, they intend to take further action, but United We Dream was still determining what that action would be.
dsweeney@SunSentinel .com, 954-356-4605 or Twitter @Daniel_Sweeney