DREAMer activists get arrested again, immigrants demand justice for their detained relatives in Florida
Protesters holding signs that read “undocumented and unafraid.”
Close to 50 people gathered outside the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, Fla., on Sunday to protest what they consider the unjust detention of their loved ones. Holding signs and chanting “undocumented, unafraid,” protesters clamored for the release of their relatives, many of whom have been detained for several months even though they are low-priority cases and have no previous criminal records. Activists claim that there are hundreds of such cases inside detention centers across the United States, despite the Obama administration’s promise to prioritize deportations of criminals.
Among those protesting was Leslie Chavez, whose father was arrested for driving without a license. He’s been in detention for the last four months. “It’s been really rough since he left. I’m the sole breadwinner right now, and I’m only 19 years old,” said Chavez.
Although the crowd was mainly Hispanic, Nina Kachanova from Russia was there demonstrating for the release of her husband, Vasiliy Melnikov. He was arrested two months ago during a routine traffic stop and has been in detention despite not having a criminal record. “Instead of having a honeymoon or a vacation, I’m here every weekend with signs petitioning to let him out,” said Kachanova. She protests every Sunday by herself in front of the detention center, but today she stumbled upon the larger group.
The protest has been part of a tumultuous week for the Broward Transitional Center after two undocumented activists, Viridiana Martinez and Marco Saavedra, infiltrated the detention center and reported that inside are numerous detainees with no criminal record, and youth who qualify for deferred action under President Obama’s new policy.
ICE has downplayed the activists’ allegations. Through a statement to Univision they said: “Broward Transitional Center is a minimum security civil detention facility that generally houses mandatory detention and low level criminal cases. The population is regularly reviewed for cases appropriate for release on alternatives to detention, prosecutorial discretion and most recently the Secretary’s new policy on deferred action.”
Martinez and Saavedra, who are protected from deportation because they qualify for deferred action, were released on Friday afternoon after their story made national headlines. However, less than 48 hours after their release, they were arrested at Sunday’s protest when they refused to unblock the street. Two more were arrested with them, Daniel Alvarado and Ally Ruiz.