MIAMI — An Argentine immigrant said his most recent detention feels like retaliation for starring in a new award-winning documentary about a group that infiltrated a for-profit detention centre to expose injustices.
Claudio Rojas called The Associated Press on Tuesday from another immigrant detention facility and said that he has been thinking about what could have happened, but he hasn’t been told anything specific.
“I just shared my story. I don’t feel like I said anything attacking them,” Rojas said, referring to immigration enforcement agents. “But I have reasons to believe that this was reprisal.”
Rojas, 53, said he sleeps on a cot in a place that looks like a military barracks with 160 other detainees. He was crushed because he wasn’t going to be able to attend this week’s premiere in Miami of “The Infiltrators,” which won two awards at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. He hadn’t been able to travel to Utah for the film festival because of conditions set by the prior detention for overstaying his visa, which inspired the making of the film back in 2012.
“I am hanging in there, but I never thought I would end up in detention again,” he said. “We know this is all a process. We are hoping for the best and trust God more than anything.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it could not comment on the case.
For the film, three activists got detained on purpose in 2012 to infiltrate the facility in Pompano Beach, Florida, find Rojas and document cases of others inside there. The purpose of the mission was to fight the claim by then-President Barack Obama that immigration enforcement focused on criminals. Many detained there had no criminal records.
Rojas’ lawyer, Sandy Pineda, said the immigration agency asked her to file newspaper clippings of hunger strikes Rojas staged in 2012 at Broward Transitional Center.
The Argentine was complying with a periodic visit that is required by the government when he was detained last Wednesday . He faces deportation after being denied a request that allows certain immigrants who are in the country illegally to stay, despite a pending visa application.
Pineda said Rojas had applied for a T visa, which allows victims of human trafficking to live and work temporarily in the United States. The attorney would not comment on the case, saying “there is an ongoing investigation about his victimization by his former employer.”
The non-profit organization Dream Activist began collecting signatures on Monday to deliver to federal lawmakers, urging them to help stop his deportation. And his family and friends set up a GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 for legal bills.