Activist in film about immigrant detention center in Florida was deported, family says

An Argentine immigrant activist who was the source of a documentary showcasing abuses at a Broward immigration detention center was deported Tuesday night, his family said.

Federal court officials have concluded they lack the power to intervene in the case of Claudio Rojas. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested him shortly before the documentary, “The Infiltrators,” aired at the Miami Film Festival in early March, records show. ICE said it could not comment on the case.

“Claudio Rojas faces imminent deportation unless someone high up in ICE, or the Trump administration, can intervene and stop this travesty of justice from taking place,” Alina Das, one of Rojas’ attorneys, told the Miami Herald Monday. “It’s clear that this is retaliation.”

Online records show Rojas, who lives in Miramar, is no longer listed as a detainee at Krome detention center in South Miami-Dade as of 6 p.m. Tuesday. His family said Rojas’ was already in Argentina by Wednesday morning.

Rojas, 53, was arrested last month during a routine check-in with immigration authorities. He has lived in the United States for 19 years.

Rojas played a major role in the film, which honed in on “injustices and abuse” at a immigrant detention center in Pompano Beach. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah before showing at the Miami Film Festival. Rojas was an inside source for the film, the filmmakers said.

Records show his attorneys filed a civil rights lawsuit with a federal court in Florida after his arrest but the court denied his request to stay in the U.S. while the court reviewed his case.

His lawyers appealed that decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Florida. On Monday, that court concluded that it does not have the power to prevent ICE from deporting Rojas.

Rojas has a pending T Visa application; T Visas are issued to victims of human and labor trafficking. His attorneys say Rojas became an applicant after being victimized by an employer, a case under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

According to ICE policy, people with pending T Visas are granted protection from deportation and can serve as a pathway to permanent resident status. If Rojas is deported, he is no longer eligible for a T Visa release.

His lawyers say his deportation would jeopardize the Department of Labor’s ongoing investigation.

“[Department Of Homeland Security] actions in executing any removal order goes against public policy that aids severe forms of trafficking in persons,” said Rojas’ attorneys Sandy Pineda and Francisco Lopez in a statement Tuesday. “This directly conflicts with Congress’ intention for survivors to report this to law enforcement investigative agencies, as is the Department of Labor.”

Over the last few weeks, Rojas’ family and supporters have sought Congressional intervention from U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Broward, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and other lawmakers.

A private bill has been filed by Deutch’s office asking for Rojas’ relief. But the bill awaits proceedings in the immigration subcommittee, which falls under the Judiciary Committee.

Emiliano Rojas, one of Rojas’ two adult sons, said his dad’s life has become “a nightmare riddled with pain and stress.”

“I just had a son. It’s my dad’s first grandson,” Emiliano said. “My dad is a guy who loves to be with family. He had plans to take him fishing and teach him things that he taught me. I would love my son to have his grandfather present but I see that it won’t be this way.”

According to fellow immigration advocates and filmmakers, Rojas leaked the complex workings of the Broward Transitional Center, a for-profit institution that detained hundreds of immigrants without trial. The Broward facility serves as a holding space for impending deportations of immigrants who came into the country illegally.

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Monique O. Madan covers immigration and enterprise; she previously covered breaking news and local government. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and The Dallas Morning News. She is currently a Reveal Fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting. She graduated from Miami Dade College and Emerson College in Boston. A note to tipsters: If you want to send Monique confidential information, her email and mailbox are open. The address is 3511 NW 91st Ave, Doral, FL 33172. You can also direct message her on social media and she’ll provide encrypted Signal details.