Long lines outside Miramar ICE facility prompt calls for change at commission meeting

MIRAMAR, FLA. (WSVN) - As the immigration debate continued to rage in the nation’s capital, long lines at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Miramar have elicited calls for change from a national organization, as local residents let their voices be heard on the issue at city hall.

Video from Tuesday night’s Miramar City Commission meeting showed a concerned resident speaking out on the conditions faced by those waiting outside the ICE building.

“We have to do something to help them,” she said.

Residents demanded commissioners to stop ICE from ever operating in the city.

“This is emotional and psychological abuse,” said the concerned resident, “and we don’t do that.”

Hours earlier, 7News cameras captured dozens of people waiting in the sweltering heat outside of the ICE building, located along the 2800 block of Southwest 145th Avenue, including mothers with young children.

“I’ve been here since 7 a.m., but there are people here since midnight just waiting for a turn,” said Angela Oliveira through a translator.

Residents at the commission meeting indicated that dozens and sometimes hundreds of people with pending immigration cases are forced to wait outside the building on a daily basis, standing for hours in the heat and rain with no access to water or restrooms.

“They’re subject to the elements of thunder and lightning, the sun, whatever,” said the concerned resident.

Maria Bilbao with United We Dream, a nonprofit that helps immigrants, said the situation is unacceptable.

“We are denouncing the situation here, people outside with no water, under the rain, under the sun, that have no access to the bathroom,” she said. “There are mothers with kids here, if you can see, sitting on the floor.”

The ICE building has been at its current location since 2015, but there’s been a change in the services offered and provided. It is now mandatory for immigrants meeting with deportation agents to check in at the facility.

“They used to come here one time in a year, but now they are calling them once a month, every two months, every 15 days,” said Bilbao. “This is part of the Trump deportation machine. This is part of what’s going on in this country now. There are so many kids here.”

Parents who go inside the facility leave their children outside with family members. United We Dream volunteers said some never come back out.

“What they do here is they do silent raids, when they snatch people with no reason,” said Carlos Valnera with United We Dream, “and then they don’t notify the families when it happens, and oftentimes it happens, and the kids that are here, they don’t know what’s going on.”

United We Dream’s efforts to raise awareness come on the same day as President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will stop families from being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

United We Dream volunteers come to the Miramar facility to give out water and coffee because, they said, people waiting outside have suffered heatstroke and have had to be taken to the hospital. Others have had their cars towed.

“The law is the law. We cannot win, so we might as well go along with the flow,” said a woman waiting outside the building.

Miramar officials who passed a resolution back in February blasted ICE for not providing enough parking or adequate bathrooms, calling this “ill treatment.”

According to volunteers, though, nothing has been done.

“We want this immigration building shut down. We want the mayor to remove the permit,” said Bilbao.

Tuesday night, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam addressed the situation. “This commission is committed to continuing to do what we can to force this issue so that these individuals — our brothers, our fellow brothers, our fellow mankind — can be treated as the humans that they are,” he said.

Immigrants also asked the city commission to block a neighboring business from building a separate entrance to their facility so their customers can avoid seeing what volunteers called a horrible situation at the ICE building.

“So they can erase any area of what is going on there right now,” said Valnera. “This is the first time that they’re bending backwards so that a corporation can have a way to say, ‘I don’t want to see this issue. I just want to erase it,’ and we’re in complete opposition to that.”

In terms of preventing ICE from operating in the city, commissioners said they are powerless, as this is a federal issue. The commission is scheduled to meet again July 3.

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