On Dec. 8, Haitian and Jamaican detainees at Krome Service Processing Center outside Miami in Dade County, Florida, refused to leave their dormitory to protest delays in obtaining travel papers from their consulates, immigration officials said; these delays have delayed their stay in detention awaiting deportation. The protest led Michael Rozos, field office director for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Florida office of detention and removal, to visit the Krome dormitory and speak to the detainees there on Dec. 8, accompanied by a “disturbance control team,” said ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez. She said team members were “dressed appropriately.”
While the detainees were frustrated at the delay in travel papers, some also talked about “the amount of people at Krome,” Gonzalez said. A Haitian detainee attributed the tense atmosphere to crowded conditions. “There are just too many people here right now,” he said. “We all are just desperate to get out.” Krome’s publicly-stated capacity of about 580 detainees has been exceeded for months. Gonzalez admitted on Dec. 14 that the number of detainees at Krome was 927. Gonzalez said 120 detainees would be transferred elsewhere on Dec. 19 and 50 others would be deported soon.
In late September, dozens of detainees signed a letter to the Miami Herald complaining about conditions at Krome. Another 255 detainees complained in a November letter that overcrowding at the facility is “causing a lot of tension that leads to confrontations, unsanitary dorm, showers, and clogged toilets….”
Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC) executive director Cheryl Little said Krome “is becoming more and more overcrowded. It’s getting dirty inside, and people are getting ill because of it.” Little said one of her lawyers went to Krome Dec. 8 and was told by a guard that there was a “riot ” and that the facility was in “lockdown.” Little said the lawyer “was told that he couldn’t go in, and that he better check before coming over the weekend because it might still be in lockdown.” Gonzalez said there was no lockdown, and visiting hours were normal over the weekend of Dec. 9.
Ralph Latortue, the Haitian consul in Miami, went to Krome Dec. 13 for an annual holiday visit with Haitian detainees. Latortue told the Miami Herald that 60 of the 83 Haitians at Krome complained of mistreatment, lack of medical attention and overcrowding. He said some detainees, particularly those with criminal records, complained about delays in travel documents. Under current Haitian government regulations, Latortue said, authorities in Port-au-Prince must pre-approve the return of Haitians with criminal records, and the process can take months. Latortue said 75% of the 83 Haitians at Krome have criminal records.
Latortue said that during his meeting at Krome, some of the Haitian detainees told him about an incident on Dec. 8 that involved an “altercation with guards.” At least two detainees who were witnesses told a FIAC lawyer that a guard pushed and “punched” a detainee, as other agitated detainees watched, according to Little. A worker at the facility who asked not to be identified said guards interrupted some immigration court proceedings during the episode.
ICE spokesperson Gonzalez said the dormitory protest was peaceful, with Haitian and Jamaican detainees refusing to leave their pod or dormitory to take meals. But Gonzalez acknowledged that an allegation was later made “against a guard.” She had no details. “We take all allegations very seriously and it will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action will be taken,” Gonzalez said.
Jamaican consul Ricardo Allicock visited Krome on Dec. 11 to meet with the more than 50 Jamaican detainees there. Allicock said many of the detainees were frustrated that they would not spend the holidays with their families back home because they have yet to be deported. The majority of the Jamaicans there have been waiting less than two months to be deported, he said. (Miami Herald, Dec. 16)
From Immigration News Briefs, Dec. 21
See our last post on the immigration crackdown.