Exclusive: DREAM Activists Infiltrate Florida Detention Center, Find Wrongly Held Immigrants

In a Democracy Now! exclusive, undocumented immigrant-rights activist Viridiana Martinez speaks out from a detention center in Pompano Beach, Florida, after being purposely arrested. Martinez is one of a group of "DREAM activists" with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance who have infiltrated the Broward Transitional Center and found dozens of immigrants who should be released under Obama's discretionary guidelines.

A review of cases to remove low-priority deportations, such as those involving immigrants with no criminal records and strong family ties, has so far stopped less than 2 percent of removals.

"I allowed myself to be detained, because ... we were getting phone calls, we were getting emails from family members of people who had been picked up and were, for months and months and months and months, being held here," Martinez says. "And what we have found is, like expected, that a majority of cases here are low-priority cases that, according to President Obama's announcement last year, he was not going to be deporting. And yet, they're all being held here."

Democracy Now! producer Renée Feltz conducts a 10-minute interview with Martinez to find out more about what's happening in the jail.

Martinez says she and other activists have found several women who have been unjustly detained for months, and some for more than a year. According to the guidelines of the prosecutorial discretionary announcement that President Obama announced in June 2011, Martinez says, they do not belong in the detention center.

When asked why they haven't been released, Martinez says part of the reason is because the detention center is "systematically set up" to keep the undocumented immigrants detained because "there is money being made." The Broward Transitional Center is owned by the GEO Group, Inc., a company that specializes in correctional detention, and residential treatment services, according to its website.

"There's definitely business and money and profit involved in all of this," she says.

She details poor prison conditions and verbal abuse from detention center staff. In one case, a woman was taunted for having issues with her period that required hospital attention.

"The way that she told me that the officers treated her was -- it was wrong. They laughed at her, they laughed at what she was in here for and the reason that she was sick," Martinez says.

Martinez now also faces deportation, but she is counting on the guidelines of the Obama administration's deferred action policy to keep her from being deported.


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