- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 3, 2019

MIAMI (AP) - The protagonist of an award-winning film about immigrants infiltrating a Florida detention facility was deported from the U.S., his attorney said Wednesday.

Claudio Rojas, 53, was sent back to his native Argentina after being detained more than a month ago during a government-mandated visit, attorney Sandy Pineda said. Rojas told The Associated Press last month that his most recent detention felt like retaliation for starring in the documentary “The Infiltrators.”

The film won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival in February. It documents young immigrants being arrested by immigration officials on purpose in order to infiltrate a for-profit detention facility, trying to get Rojas and others out in 2012 when he was detained for overstaying his visa.

Producer Darren Dean, known for “The Florida Project,” posted on Facebook a recording of a phone call where Rojas thanks advocates and lawyers for their help.

“I wish I could have stayed with my family,” said Rojas. “My family doesn’t want to see me resist deportation and face federal charges.”

Rojas‘ attorneys and other organizations filed a lawsuit last month to block his deportation, arguing that his First Amendment rights were violated and that he had a pending visa application. A federal judge dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it could not comment on this case.

“This act is inhumane, cruel and seems politically motivated,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of south Florida, via Twitter. “If this administration truly cared about enforcing our laws, they would allow Claudio to speak out against the labor trafficking crimes he suffered and not use deportation as retaliation for freely expressing and criticizing our government.”

Rojas had a pending application for a T visa, which allows victims of human trafficking to live and work temporarily in the U.S. His attorney said he had been victimized by a former employer and was working with the Department of Labor in its investigation.

The activist had lived in a Miami suburb for nearly two decades and had recently become a grandfather.

Pineda said the Department of Labor would have to request for him to be paroled back into the country or else he would need to wait 10 years to try to get another visa to come into the country.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

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