Undocumented Activists Snuck Into Immigration Jail to Fight Deportations

An immigrant rights activist has been detained in Florida just weeks after he appeared in an acclaimed film at the Sundance Film Festival about activists infiltrating and exposing for-profit immigrant detention jails. Claudio Rojas was apprehended on Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after an annual check-in and is now being held at Krome Detention Center, where he faces immediate deportation. His lawyer says his arrest is linked to the film featuring his activism. It’s called The Infiltrators. The gripping hybrid documentary/dramatic feature was a smash success at Sundance and will play at the Miami Film Festival Tuesday. But Claudio Rojas will not be there to see it. The Infiltrators is based on the incredible true story of undocumented immigrants who purposely got themselves arrested by federal authorities in order to infiltrate the Broward Transitional Center in Florida and organize the detainees within its walls. Democracy Now! spoke with the film’s co-director, Alex Rivera, and two activists featured in the film, Viridiana Martinez and Mohammad Abdollahi, at the Sundance Film Festival.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: An immigrant rights activist has been detained in Florida just weeks after he appeared in an acclaimed film at the Sundance Film Festival about activists infiltrating and exposing for-profit immigrant detention jails. Claudio Rojas was apprehended Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after an annual check-in. He’s now being held at the Krome Detention Center, where he faces immediate deportation. His lawyer says his arrest is linked to the film featuring his activism. It’s called The Infiltrators. The gripping hybrid documentary-dramatic feature was a smash success at Sundance, will play at the Miami Film Festival Tuesday. But Claudio Rojas will not be there to see it. Attorney Sandy Pineda told The Washington Post, quote, “I definitely think it’s retaliation. … For them to take this stance and to just arrest him so suddenly for no apparent reason, it’s very unusual,” she said.

The Infiltrators is based on the incredible true story of undocumented immigrants who purposefully got themselves arrested by federal authorities in order to infiltrate the Broward Transitional Center in Florida and organize the prisoners within its walls. Claudio Rojas worked with the activists on the inside. A father of two with no criminal record, he spent seven months at Broward in 2012, after he was detained by ICE officials outside his Florida home. The scene was portrayed in The Infiltrators. It begins with a lawn care worker in Broward County, Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED: Our inside man was Claudio Rojas. He just didn’t know it yet.

CLAUDIO ROJAS: [translated] My life was pretty ordinary, just like anyone else. I’d go home after work. I liked to go fishing on weekends. Family back in Argentina, I’m at the park with Liliana. Say hi, Liliana. It was a Friday morning. I woke up at 7:30 in the morning to take out the trash. I went out wearing only shorts.

AMY GOODMAN: At the end of that clip, we see an actor playing Claudio Rojas being ambushed by ICE officers as he takes out the trash.

The Infiltrators, directed by Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera, features Viridiana Martinez and Marco Saavedra, young DREAMers who were brought to the United States as children. As organizers with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, Viri and Marco entered the Broward Transitional Center in 2012 and went undercover to expose conditions at the detention center and help immigrants fight deportations. They worked with activists on the outside, including Mohammad Abdollahi, a young, gay, undocumented Iranian immigrant. When they were arrested and jailed inside, they worked alongside Claudio Rojas, who eventually was released from detention after a highly publicized hunger strike. Now Claudio Rojas faces deportation once again.

Well, Democracy Now! sat down with Alex Rivera, Viridiana Martinez and Mohammad Abdollahi this year at the Sundance Film Festival. I began by asking co-director Alex Rivera why he made the film.

ALEX RIVERA: Both Cristina Ibarra, my co-director, and myself, we both come from immigrant families. We have undocumented family members. And when we decided to become filmmakers, we sort of dove into border issues and immigration issues as a kind of lifelong commitment, really. I’ve been making works sort of in and around the question of immigration for about 20 years.

But in 2010 we saw something that we’d never seen before, which was undocumented immigrants risking deportation as part of an act of political protest, doing sit-ins, blocking roads, sitting in John McCain’s office, and risking deportation to sort of force a decision on behalf of the government about their status. And it was a disturbing thing to see in the news. It was shocking. And I wanted to understand it better.

And so, through some mutual friends, I reached out to what would become the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, to Mohammad and the group of other young undocumented folks who surrounded him or who worked with him, and said, “I want to make a film.” And I thought I was going to make a short film; it would be a month or two. And every time I tried to edit the film, they went and did something more interesting, more radical. And so I had to stop editing, and Cristina and I just started to kind of film and try to wrestle with what was unfolding in this moment of great activism and sort of experimentation.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, what’s interesting is you didn’t make a documentary here.

ALEX RIVERA: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about that choice.

ALEX RIVERA: Sure. So, I filmed with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance for about two years. And then, after that cycle of action, after they sort of — after DACA was passed, and the movement kind of settled down a little bit, we looked back at the footage, and this one part of the story, which was the infiltration of the Broward detention center, seemed like the story that had a really fantastic kind of beginning, middle and end. And by focusing on that one story, you could see a lot of other dynamics, a lot of other histories, a lot of other problems. And so, the only problem with that, though, was that we only were able to film half of the story, meaning that we were with this activist group that was sending undocumented folks into the detention center, but once they went in they disappeared. They disappeared from our camera, and they disappeared from their friends on the outside. And so, how do you tell a story in which you can only see half of it, in this visual medium?

And so, our solution was to work in a kind of hybrid form, where on the outside of the detention center we’re with the real people going through this real action in real time, but then, when they go into the detention center, we turn them into actors. And we use wardrobe, hair, makeup, casting to try to make a kind of continuity, so you know — as a viewer, you know who you’re following, but you also see there’s a little difference. And so, the characters go into this kind of suspended place. They’re suspended in the detention center and also suspended in this sort of format of fiction. And so, the two forms, the —

AMY GOODMAN: As you call it, the “black box.” They’re entering the black box.

ALEX RIVERA: They enter the black box. And you feel it texturally in the film itself, that they’re in this other landscape. But then, in detention, they sometimes pick up the phone and call out to the documentary layer. And so, both Cristina and I, it’s important to us as filmmakers to try to tell stories that are urgent, tell stories that are relevant to the political moment we’re living in, but also to play with the form and invite an audience in to see a film that’s as weird formally and as adventurous in its form as the activists were in their actions.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m secretly hoping that after you get your awards here at Sundance, that you turn this film into — it’s kind of an immigrant version of Orange Is the New Black, but we’ll talk about that later. So, Viri Martinez, you are the real undocumented immigrant who goes into the detention center in 2012. We spoke to you in the detention center. But let’s go back a little bit and talk about this decision that you made. I mean, you were risking everything. Talk about your life here and where you were born and why you would voluntarily try to get yourself arrested or detained so that you’re taken into a center that could lead to your deportation.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yeah. Well, I was born in Mexico, and I was brought here to the U.S. when I was 7 years old. And then, when I graduated high school and I couldn’t go to college because of my status, I —

AMY GOODMAN: You lived in?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: I lived in North Carolina. That’s where I grew up and everything. And so, I became active in the community as a result of that background. And I started an immigrant youth-led organization in North Carolina. And then we started working on deportation cases. And by working cases, I mean we would hear that our friends were getting deported, lots of DREAMers at the time, youth that had been brought here as children and couldn’t — you know, were undocumented. And so —

AMY GOODMAN: When did you come out as undocumented, come out publicly?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: I was — 2009 was when I first came out.

AMY GOODMAN: How old were you?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: That was like 10 years ago, so I was like 22. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you scared? Where did you make your pronouncement?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yes. It was at this rally, actually, where somebody had told people my story in like, you know, like settings, like private settings, but never like publicly, until somebody — we were at this rally. Somebody had heard my story. And they handed me a mic, and they said, “Viri, talk.” And so I started talking about, you know, who I was and being undocumented. And that was the first time that I came out.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you afraid? Was ICE there?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: ICE wasn’t there, but the police was there. And I was definitely afraid. But I was willing to face that fear, because living in the shadows was no longer an option for me.

AMY GOODMAN: So you became an activist.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what you decided to do in 2012. And let’s be clear: This isn’t under Trump; this is under President Obama.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yes. Thank you, Amy, for clarifying that. Yeah, I decided to turn myself in and be a part of this action, when I learned that there was a women’s section. Marco let us know that. And we had been — like I was explaining, we had been working with people who were facing deportation for several years at that point, and we knew that we had the ability to stop our deportation. And so, even though it was a risk, I was willing to take that risk because I knew that we had the power to get me out if things went south.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go right now to Marco, who was the first of the undocumented immigrants to turn himself in at the Broward detention center. He came on Democracy Now! afterwards and talked about how tough this decision was and what happened.

MARCO SAAVEDRA: What we found and what we’ve developed since we started this campaign — and I was in the center for about 23 days — was many, many detainees who, as you said, qualify as low priority for deportation, including the case of an Claudio Rojas, who is an Argentinean father, and he is now on his 17th day of his hunger strike, because — as an expression of his faith, but also as a statement saying that the worst has already happened to me, being separated from my family for the past six months, and using his body as a sacrifice or as an example of the sacrifice that he’s already endured, he’s willing to do that and, because of that, was separated from — and was taken from Broward Transitional Center to Krome detention facility in order to be removed from the other detainees that were also beginning to organize.

AMY GOODMAN: But what was his story? Why — is he one of the people who would be released under Obama’s program?

MARCO SAAVEDRA: Under the prosecutorial discretion memo, correct, as outlined in the summer of 2011, he would be a perfect candidate. He was in removal proceedings about two years ago, when he was detained with his son after kind of a traffic — a minor traffic infraction. They were trying to enter a port, and they didn’t have valid identification, and so they were both in detention for three months. And his son isDREAMAct-eligible, Emiliano Rojas, and so his case was dropped. But Claudio received 120 days to leave the country and disobeyed it, because he would rather choose to stay with his family and provide for them. And so, receiving a deportation order and not obeying it, now that’s the biggest thing that is really hurting his campaign for his release.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Marco describing on Democracy Now!, who is featured in this film, both the re-enactment of when he went inside, with an actor, and also himself, when he gets out. Viri, describe what happened to you. You go into the — where did you go?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yeah, so, my first attempt was at the Customs and Border Patrol office where Marco was able to turn himself in. And I was unsuccessful. The second attempt —

AMY GOODMAN: What did you say?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: I said I was — I think what it — the reason that I was unsuccessful is because I was dressed very nicely. I had a nice like summer dress, and I had makeup on. And so, I just said — I think I said, “I want to turn myself in,” but like I tried to do broken English. It like really sounded like I was playing around, because I didn’t prepare. Like I didn’t think it was going to be that difficult. And when the officer gave me this look, like “What are you doing here?” like “What do you want?” and then he called another officer, and that’s when I realized, “Oh, this isn’t working. I’m just going to go.” Yeah, because he said, “I saw you get out of the car.”

AMY GOODMAN: What’s wrong with getting out of a car?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: “Who dropped you off?” And you know? And so, yeah, so at that point I just said, “OK, I’m — this is the wrong place. I’m going to go. Bye.” And then we had to try again later. But in order to try again, we actually played through the role of like — and even like I dressed differently to fit the — to fit what like a day laborer looks like, you know? And sound like that. I mean, I spoke only Spanish, and then I basically had to beg.

AMY GOODMAN: And where did you turn yourself in then?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: I turned myself in successfully the second time. It was a port of — the Fort Lauderdale port of entry.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did you say? “I am not documented”?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: I was crying. I said that my husband had been deported, that I had been fired, that I had no job and that I just needed to be — I just wanted to go and that I had nothing left here. And I just cried.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they do?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: And they didn’t want to take me. They said, “Are you sure? Are you sure? That you can probably do more for your family if you stay here. You know, we can find you help. And we can” — I said, “No, no. I don’t want to be here. Please just take me.” I had to beg them and cry.

AMY GOODMAN: And you said you’re undocumented.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Wouldn’t that be enough for them to take you?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: That’s what you would think, right? Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: For all the people who are trying not to get deported —

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: — to beg and say you’re undocumented. But they ultimately took you.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Right, they ultimately did, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: They handcuffed you?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yes, yes. I wasn’t handcuffed at that moment. I was actually — I think they were still trying to figure out like what to do and why I was begging to be deported. They transferred me to the Customs and Border Patrol facility. There, they processed me again, where they pulled up actually some of my arrest records, of being arrested in other like actions, other protesting stuff. But I was able to get around that by like saying other stuff, so as to not say, “Oh, yeah, I protested. That’s why I got — I have an arrest record.” And then I was taken to a room for several hours, until they finally drove me to Broward Transitional Center.

AMY GOODMAN: So, describe walking into Broward and what that felt like. You were put in an orange jumpsuit?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: It wasn’t an orange jumpsuit that I was put in. It was actually a gray like — yeah, just gray like sweatpants and like sweatshirt. And it took hours for me to be processed. I mean, when I finally made it into my room in Broward, it was like 5 a.m. I turned myself in at 7 p.m. So, it took hours for me to finally get up there.

AMY GOODMAN: So, describe the detention center, who you were placed with and then how you started to come out to — this was a women’s part of —

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: A women’s facility.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Broward has both men and women, but you’re divided?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yes. Broward has way less women than men. There’s only like up to a hundred women. And there’s like 600 men. So, the women’s area is very like — it’s very secluded. It’s one — it’s one hallway with lots of rooms. I actually ended up in the same room as Maria. When I got into the room, she saw me, when I got there in the morning, and she helped me do my bed and everything. And the next morning, when we went to lunch, I just like started talking to her and the other girls. And I told her, you know, “Yeah, we’ve been in touch with Maria — with the husband of someone here.” And she said, “Who? Tell me.” And I told her, yeah, “Maria, Maria Soledad.” And she said — and we just looked at each other, and we were like — she was like, “That’s me. And I heard about this, but I didn’t know that it was real, that it was really going to happen.” And she was just blown away. And I was blown away that I ended up in the same room as her. It was crazy.

AMY GOODMAN: Immigrant rights activist Viridiana Martinez, who stars in The Infiltrators, along with fellow activist Mohammad Abdollahi, and the film’s co-director, Alex Rivera. We’ll be back with them in 30 seconds.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Don’t Fence Me In” by John Daversa Big Band featuring DACAArtists. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. We’re looking at The Infiltrators, a new film based on the incredible true story of undocumented immigrants who purposefully got themselves arrested by federal authorities in order to infiltrate a for-profit immigrant jail in Florida. We spoke with the co-director, Alex Rivera, and the activists featured in the film, Viridiana Martinez and Mohammad Abdollahi, at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this coordination on the outside. Who decides to go in? Who decides to stay outside? Mo, you were born in Iran. You’re undocumented. You’re not even protected by DACA right now. So, everything you’re doing is unprotected. Viri, you now have DACA protection?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Well, yes, but I would argue DACA is not a protection. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Because it’s not. I mean, it’s discretionary. The same way that I got it, I can get it taken away.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Mo, you decided not to go inside. You’d coordinate. And what does it mean to coordinate? And explain what information you needed from people on the inside to help them.

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: Yeah, I mean, I couldn’t go inside the Broward detention center, because I also don’t speak Spanish, one of my limitations. In terms of our outside role and how we decided how folks went in, we had really been doing deportation cases since we were advocating for the DREAM Act. And when we were advocating for the DREAM Act, we had a lot of our friends getting deported. And we learned sort of through the Obama administration how we can build support for our friends to stop their deportations. And so, whenever we got to the Broward detention center, we had sort of figured out that we can safely get folks in to gather stories, and get them out whenever the time was right. That was sort of our political calculation.

The goal of Broward was — this came right after DACA. That was like the important thing for us. When DACA was announced, the folks from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, we were occupying Obama’s campaign offices. We were still sitting in his offices the day after the announcement, sort of trying to tell the world that there are going to be DREAMers getting deported, this policy is not going to be executed fully. And we sort of found our voices going into the void. And so, that’s —

AMY GOODMAN: This was 2012.

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: 2012.

AMY GOODMAN: When he was running for re-election.

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: Uh-huh, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So it was all over the country happening.

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: Yeah, June 2012, we were sitting in the offices, and we just sort of realized we were just screaming into the void. Nobody’s listening to us. And that’s when sort of the plan for Broward was hatched of: How can we show everybody that regardless of what they say they’re doing, behind the scenes our people are actually being harmed? And so, we went down to Florida.

As the outside team, our role was pretty much, the minute that the folks inside got access to the phone, which was like 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., they would start calling us and giving us information. So, the first day that Marco got inside the detention center, that day he called us like around 8:30 in the morning, and he had a list of names and A numbers of people inside the detention center with their family contacts. So I would literally just sit there with a sketchpad. He would give me a name, A number, phone number; name, A number, phone number. We did that over and over, every single day, until he was released.

As the outside team, it wasn’t just a few of us. We were in a sort of house in Florida with about four of us that were on the ground, that were the point of contact with families, getting information, helping design campaigns locally. But we were — had the entire backing of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, so we had a whole team that was in Philadelphia, in Michigan, Ohio, that would draft petitions. We had another group of folks that were all law students, that would draft legal filings.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the key was — and, Viri, in the film, Marco is usually doing this — but getting these prisoners to sign away their privacy rights so people could learn about their case. Did you also do that with the women?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: So, that’s where like the trust issue comes in. And because there wasn’t — I mean, there were women who did it, but there wasn’t as many, and there wasn’t as — because of the mistrust and the “What if this gets me deported?”

AMY GOODMAN: And what is the goal, though? If they sign away their privacy rights, how does that help them get out?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Because that’s the only way that congressional offices agree to inquire with DHS, with Department of Homeland Security, ICE, about the status of their cases.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Alex, is it true, the way it all happened? I mean, you had Marco inside, and he was getting all these documents. Somehow, ICE caught on, and the GEO Group, which runs the prison — and we’ll talk about that in a minute — that he was handing papers to someone in the visiting room. So they said no longer could they hand papers to each other. Is that how it went?

ALEX RIVERA: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, the film is kind of a hybrid, in between documentary and fiction. And in the fictional world, we sometimes synthesize and condense things. The sort of big shape of the story is based entirely on the truth. And so, one of the threads in the story, it’s kind of — as directors, we tried to amplify kind of a heist element to it. We sometimes called it the Oceans’s Eleven of immigration. We wanted to make a film that would bring in a new kind of audience for this type of a story.

AMY GOODMAN: So you have Mo dropping these envelopes of privacy waivers into the garbage, and some other immigrant, who is pushing the garbage along, would go drop it onto the floor, and the guy pushing the broom would go into the detention waiting room, pushing this broom with papers under it, and then the immigrant activist in the waiting room would pick up the document and drop other documents, so that others could sign. And it would go like that.

ALEX RIVERA: Yeah. And that’s the essence of the truth, that basically — that these privacy waivers were an essential part of the campaign, to basically turn the detention center inside out. The detention center is designed to disappear people, to make them invisible. And when they sign away their privacy rights, which sounds vulnerable, it sounds risky, but it actually is part of empowerment, letting the inside be seen by journalists and by politicians. So these papers going in and out quickly were essential to the campaign. And so, as storytellers, we tried to kind of amplify that element of it.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Mo, how many people were you able to document inside?

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: We had 350 folks that we were in direct contact with by the end of that three weeks. And we had missed probably a good 200, 300 phone calls. We had about 150 active campaigns that we were directly working on. And there was about 120 folks that we saw get out on discretion.

AMY GOODMAN: The moments when you would call a family member on the outside were so touching, so beautiful. You talked about how important that was just to you to keep going. But describe that.

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: Yeah, I mean, for us, like the thought that we constantly had going in our minds as we were working on this project is: How can the system be so broken that the best hope these people have is a group of undocumented youth? Have not gone to college. We’re not licensed attorneys. We’re not anything And we are somehow the best hope people have? And so, it was very sort of re-energizing for us to connect with other undocumented people and have them see, through our actions and our working together, that, as undocumented folks, we can empower one another and really achieve these things. And that’s what those happy moments really meant for us.

AMY GOODMAN: OK, let’s talk about the uprising in the courtyard. Marco is taken. Everyone is afraid he’s going to be deported.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And then this chant goes up: “Libertad! Freedom! Freedom!” And everyone, who had been very afraid and quiet, suddenly is chanting.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Yes. Yes.

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: In protest.

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: I mean, I remember hearing it when I was finally taken downstairs, again, and put in a room, and they said, “You need to put on — you need to change out.” And I said, “Where’s my phone?” And they were like, “We’re not giving you that.” And I’m like — the whole time, you know, I’m trying to get my phone, because I just wanted to document stuff. But they wouldn’t give it to me. So, anyways, so then I start hearing — when they stick me in this room, and I’m like, “Where’s Marco?” And then I start hearing the chanting. And I’m like, “Oh, god! What’s going on?” It was like something out of a movie. It was intense.

AMY GOODMAN: And meanwhile, you’re converging, Mo. Mo, you and the other —

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: At the time.

AMY GOODMAN: — undocumented activists and others, your allies, are converging on the outside of the jail, of the detention center, as the inside people are shouting, “Libertad! Freedom! Freedom!”?

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: Yeah. I mean, we were — by the point Viri and Marco were ready to get out of the detention center, we felt like we had made our point to every single guard, ICE official, etc., that existed in Florida, that we will go to no [sic] lengths to help our families. And yeah, so we went there to pick up —

AMY GOODMAN: That you would go to all lengths?

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: We would go to all lengths and any lengths. I mean, I think, for me, the real undercurrent of this action at Broward was that we wanted to send a message to the ICE officers, Border Patrol: Every single time you detain somebody, could they be an infiltrator? We don’t know. And so, that’s really what we wanted to get across, is to get them to second-guess every single action they have.

I think there’s — like, for the media, for example, when we went public that Viridiana was inside and Marco was inside, we were very intentional that every single room inside of that detention center had a TV, because they wanted people to just be like zombies looking at the TV. We knew that the folks that are inside are always watching certain media channels, and so we specifically worked on deals with those media outlets.

I mean, every little tiny bit of this action was very planned to use the system against itself, in a way that other folks can replicate. And that’s what — for me, personally, I think this project and this film and everything can really be a flare for a lot of folks who may lack the creativity, the energy, or to know that we can do more than sort of like resist right now. That’s what message that we want this film to get to people, is that you can use every little bit of it. I think by the end of the infiltration, close to when Marco was about to get out, I mean, we were to the point where we would tell people that would call, “Go to room 306, pick up a blank privacy waiver, give it to room 205, and they’ll deliver it to us.” Like, yeah, it’s easy.

AMY GOODMAN: Who were you able to get out, you and Marco? Were you actually able to free people?

VIRIDIANA MARTINEZ: Oh, yeah. I mean, this was — after we got kicked out of Broward, we stayed around for six months. So, we didn’t — I didn’t live in Florida prior to this. I mean, I went there specifically for this project. So, we continued working for like six months on getting people released.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Alex, if you could talk about where GEO fits in and where does ICE fit in? How does this work? We’re talking about government, and we’re talking about private companies.

ALEX RIVERA: Sure, sure. So, in the film, we had to sort of simplify things, so you really see a lot of the — you see a lot of the GEO corporation in the film. And the GEO corporation owns the facility, runs it. They administer a labor program, which has been the subject of a recent lawsuit because they pay the detainees a dollar a day. And the way that they kind of compel detainees to work, to clean the floors, to wash the uniforms, to cook the food, to run the entire facility, for a wage of a dollar a day — the way they compel that labor is through withholding visitation rights. So, if you refuse to work, you get to see your family, your loved ones, once every two weeks. But if you participate in this basically forced labor program, then you get to see your loved ones once a week. And I remember when Marco emerged from the detention center, that was the first thing he was talking about. I think he sort of learned that inside. I learned it from him. And it was shocking. And today it is the subject of a lawsuit.

AMY GOODMAN: The Infiltrators co-director Alex Rivera and immigrant rights activists Viridiana Martinez and Mohammad Abdollahi. The Infiltrators will be screened at the Miami Film Festival on Tuesday, and then, starting Friday, at SXSWin Austin, Texas.

And that does it for the show. A very fond farewell to Ariel Boone. We will miss your passion, your dedication, your wisdom and your puns, Punderdome star. You have made Democracy Now! so much better.

I’m speaking in Denver March 15th at East High School. Check our website. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.