Immigrant-Rights Groups Target Miramar ICE Facility As Part Of National Protests
Several immigrant-rights groups gathered in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Miramar Tuesday morning, chanting "Melt the ICE!" and "Shut it down!"
The goal is to get people to call on lawmakers to close and stop funding ICE facilities, and also to bear witness over the Fourth of July holiday and reunite families.
"There was a lot of movement from the debates last week. A lot of folks riled up over the images they saw with our candidates going down [to Homestead]," Laurie Woodward Garcia said. She organized the protest in Miramar for the groups MoveOn, Indivisible, and Broward For Progress as a part of the #CloseTheCamps national day of action.
"We know our congressional members are going to be traveling ... We wanted this today for folks to be calling and contacting," she said.
Woodward Garcia has been coming to the facility, located near I-75 and Miramar Parkway on SW 145th Ave., for two years. She said, approaching the Fourth of July holiday, it's the way people are being treated and left in the heat that is un-American.
"This is not representative of our democracy," she said of the line of people waiting to get into the Miramar facility.
The groups in front of the Miramar facility protested conditions outside — namely heat and lack of parking from across the street. They also distributed crackers, oranges and apples, and bottles of cold water to people waiting in line for their check-ins.
The activists were not allowed to cross the street to hand out the snacks and water to people waiting just outside the facility doors, however families waiting could get water before getting in line.
The ICE facility in Miramar is where people seeking asylum, refugees, people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and people with required check-ins go for their immigration appointments. In some cases, people can be detained there.
Since last year, ICE arrests have gone up in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. From October 2018 to March 2019 arrests increased from 719 to 816, according to a spokesperson for the Miami Outreach Office for ICE.
Some of the protestors criticized Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam for not doing more to fix the conditions outside of the facility.
"He's too busy running for president," one protester yelled.
Messam told WLRN last week that he thinks conditions at the facility are "deplorable situations," but it doesn't change his power to act.
"I have been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from immigration advocates ... we have to explain to them that local government cannot usurp a federal agency," Messam said. "Our hands are tied."
Karla Schatzmann, 34, had a personal reason for driving up from Miami on Tuesday morning to hand out water bottles for the waiting families. Her own family came to the U.S. after fleeing violence in Peru — and she was undocumented until she became a citizen.
"It's very personal," she said. "I have been through what these people have gone through. You're always taught that this is something really shameful."
She came with the immigrant-rights group RiseUp Florida.
"We really need to speak up and advocate and show the world, really, what's going on," Schatzmann said.
A small group of local immigration activists — called the Miramar Circle of Protection — meets at the facility every Wednesday morning from 8:30 to 10:30 to hand out donations.