Such scrutiny apparently rattled some at the center. The Broward Sheriff's Office received a call from a staffer on Jan. 26, 2012, advising that a helicopter was flying over the facility and that the caller feared it was related to an "Afghan" news crew that had visited the day before.
On camera, a Mexican woman told Al-Jazeera that she felt pressured to work while confined at BTC: "Sometimes the officer would tell us if we didn't work in the kitchen then we wouldn't eat, because there was nobody working or serving so then nobody was going to eat."
Asked about that claim, Moore told the Sun Sentinel it was groundless. "Meals will be served, detainees will be cared for, whether we have volunteers or whether we don't have volunteers," he said.
Detainees, many of them penniless, told the Sun Sentinel of having to work to pay for phone calls to the outside, snacks or filing fees for their immigration claims.
Castaneda said he spent $70 a week on phone calls alone.
Many current and former detainees interviewed by the newspaper contended meals at the facility are unappetizing and not filling.
About 10 detainees suffered gastrointestinal troubles in May 2011 after what one immigrant advocacy group called "rotten chicken" was served for dinner. But Moore said Broward County Health Department officials could not pinpoint the cause, and that the affected people quickly recovered.
In a 2012 federal inspection review of BTC, 28 detainees interviewed said the center's food "lacked variety and good taste" but a registered dietitian certified it "nutritiously complete."
The center has an infirmary with nurses and a doctor on site, but no resident mental health care professional. People needing psychological help are taken to area hospitals.
In 2011, three detainees attempted suicide at the center, according to the 2012 federal inspection review.
In one case a "Latin female jumped 20 feet from a stair ledge" and in another a detainee "swallowed pills," Broward Sheriff's Office records state.
The federal review also found that 10 detainees referred to outside psychiatrists were not seen within two weeks as required by ICE standards.
Moore said ICE is working to speed up the delivery of mental health services.
But lawyers who represent detainees at BTC say many of them are former victims of human trafficking, domestic violence or other family traumas, and require intensive treatment.
"They are not getting the proper counseling they need," said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice, an immigrant rights group that provides legal help at BTC. Little said women in particular are often overprescribed drugs that do not resolve their underlying mental or emotional anguish.
Sheriff's office records show paramedics have been summoned to the center during the past two years for reported strokes, fainting, fever, chest pain, groin pain, abdominal pain, seizures, allergic reactions, diabetic emergencies, high blood pressure, and injuries, including someone with a gash to the head, a woman who fell getting off a bus and another who fell off an upper bunk bed.
Complicated medical cases are referred to hospitals or outside specialists but lawyers for immigrants say they can wait a long time for treatment.
Angel Raymundo, 38, originally of Guatemala, claims he developed a hernia that grew to the size of an orange while detained at BTC for six months. He was given medication for the pain but said ICE refused to arrange and pay for the recommended surgery.
His lawyer said Raymundo was not informed of the reason for the refusal. "He was just basically left in the dark," said attorney Edward Ramos, who was recruited to help Raymundo by the activists who infiltrated BTC during the summer.