Let Us Help Care For The Detained Children

Karla Hernández-Mats

There are 2,500 children being held like prisoners in a camp in our own backyard, and regardless of how you feel about immigration policy, we have an obligation to treat these children with dignity and humanity.

Let’s debate our approach to immigration in this country another day. Today we have children as young as 8 years old living in a tent city where they are ushered around like inmates. They have no access to true education or recreational activities. Which is very telling about how our government lacks empathy for these children, since even our most hardened criminals have access to such activities.

Nearly a month ago, the Trump administration decided to eliminate recess time for soccer games and education of children sitting in camps near the border. They said it was about money. I say this is inhumane and encourages the child abuse that media is starting to report on at these centers. 

As far as the money is concerned, a for-profit business is being paid $750 per child, per day to run this detention center. The company led by John Kelly, President Trump’s recently departed Chief of Staff, is being paid nearly $1.9 million dollars a day to detain these children in Homestead. 

Something is blatantly wrong here. Miami Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, has offered to step in and make sure these children are being educated and properly cared for. This is of course logical, since the district is already providing this service at two much smaller facilities in our county, Boy’s Town and His House.

The government has responded by ignoring all concerns coming from him and other community leaders. Congresswoman Shalala reiterated the Superintendent’s offer in writing and they disregarded it as well.

Our community is so generous and loving that teachers have volunteered to counsel, teach, and play with these children simply because it’s the right thing to do, and they have turned a deaf ear to us as well. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of immigration, we can all agree that this is appalling.

These are children…young lives with emotional and developmental needs that need to be nurtured. Aside from the moral obligation to treat them with dignity, the question remains. Will we be the generation that thinks it is wise to detain children as prisoners, treat them inhumanely and throw their poor souls back into the hopelessness that they are fleeing? This is both immoral and abominable to the Americans I know who love this country.

Let the politicians argue in congress and let us the United Teachers of Dade step in and help. We want to see these children get a proper education and be treated with respect and dignity. Imagine this, our underfunded public schools spends $41.27 per student for each education per day. This demonstrates that these companies are profiteering off of children and intentionally mistreating them. We want to, can, and should help.

Our concern for their wellbeing is so immense that our educators are willing to volunteer to teach, counsel, and play with these children so that their already difficult lives are not further ruined by the inhumane decisions of government officials.

tweet: @karlamats

Karla Hernandez-Mats is a Special Education teacher who was elected three years ago as President of United Teachers of Dade, the bargaining union for Miami-Dade’s 27,000 public school teachers and support staff.
Karla and UTD lead the effort to pass the largest public school teacher pay raise in Miami-Dade history last November with 71% voter support.

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43 Comments on "Let Us Help Care For The Detained Children"

  1. Donna Shelley | July 8, 2019 at 4:56 pm | Reply

    Inhumane indeed. How can the public help?

  2. Suria Restrepo | July 8, 2019 at 5:10 pm | Reply

    I will be happy to help, where can I apply ?

  3. UTD: Follow the money. UTD wants more students, more dollars, more teachers. UTD sees this as more money. We all want to help kids. But why don’t we help our kids. Let’s help the poor kids in the poor Miami neighborhoods. Are we responsible for all the kids in the Western Hemisphere? Should we just take over these countries or let them take us over?

  4. Karla, you should be INVESTIGATE before writing this article. your message is a shame
    as a Latina, citizen and aware of the situation there, I think you should give back your credentials to your employer for not investigating the reality of the shelters and another for trying to argue about the President of this nation, I am not republicans or Democratic, I am just and respectful as God demands. I know the reality in the shelter and as a mom I can tell you in your face those kids receive the best care, food, clothes, every Products that they need for stay clean, have entertainment, play soccer, basket etc.
    please return to the school of communications.

  5. how we can help

  6. Ana Pando, PhD. | July 8, 2019 at 5:22 pm | Reply

    Great article! How can one help?

  7. Rolando Tabares | July 8, 2019 at 5:23 pm | Reply

    God……I am so appalled and so very angry after reading this! What can I do? What can we do as a community?

  8. Rebecca Kaplan | July 8, 2019 at 5:37 pm | Reply

    What can we do to help these children? This must come to an end and we MUST come together as a community to help this shameful problem. These are children we are talking about here, children, equal to American children, a child is a child, regardless of what country or background they come from! What can we do to help? Let’s come together and find a solution! Don’t just read about this and think “what a shame!”, let’s move and make something happen! What if this was YOUR child being treated like a caged animal? Worse than a caged animal?! Dispicable!

    • I will never send my my child to be in a situation like this. It is the parents responsibility to protect their children

  9. “Karla”

    you should investigate before writing this article. your message is a shame, as a Latina, citizen and aware of the situation there, I think you should give your credentials back to your employer for not investigate the reality of the shelters and another for trying to argue about the President of this nation, I am not a member of any party I am just and respectful as God demands.
    I know the reality there and as a mom I can tell you in your face those kids receive excellent care, boys with boys girls with girls, they have food, clothes, hygiene kit, games, entertainment, school. Please stop to write this thing and go back to you school.

    • Please no need to repost what obviously no one paid attention to. You are allowed to your opinion just like everyone else is.

  10. Denise Galvez Turros | July 8, 2019 at 5:38 pm | Reply

    What a bunch of lies!! Have you even been to the Homestead location? Why don’t you focus on your teachers who are running to charter schools because if the inhumane treatment they get in most schools. My husband worked at south ridge and Horace Mann and the administration in those schools are horrible. The teachers are treated like second class citizens and the situation for those american children in those schools is hopeless. Why not focus your efforts there and stop spreading lies.


    • Jane B Johnson | July 9, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Reply

      Denise……Just because you don’t like what’s happening, do everyone a favor and stop acting like YOUR beloved toddler Drumpf. You both call truth “lies”, insult those who present said truth and then divert the conversation from the truth at hand. THE TOPIC IS- the kids/, immoral profits, all while breaking laws and time frames with asylum seekers. Please see the attached link for a photo and article about the cronyism at hand in Homestead. Stick to the subject. Besides….pointing out specific schools (out of many), as an argument against providing some education for children stuck in a FAR WORSE situation than you have ever experienced, is a weak and typically privileged viewpoint. My family got here by seeking a better economic life from Sweden. How about yours?https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/immigration/article230007499.html

  11. Caroline Biggs | July 8, 2019 at 5:42 pm | Reply

    As a MDPS educator myself and mother I am completely appalled by the inhumanity in our own neighborhood! Willing to help in any way.

  12. There are several ways to help.

    (1) Make a donation to RAICES, who fights in court to litigate this issue and demand account from the federal government.

    (2) Contact your mayor’s office and make a statement on record.

    (3) Contact your state legislature.

    (4) Contact your House Representative and both Senators.

    (5) Contact the House and Senate leadership, both Minority and Majority.

    (6) Go to stand vigil at the Homestead facility.

    Democracy is a tedious endeavor, but the small and consistent efforts of many people will effect change.

    Never give up hope.

    • Dear Paola,
      You are ridiculous… you have the audacity to demand that Ms. Hernandez-Mats “give back her credentials” as the President of the United Teachers of Dade and “return to the school of communications”? A better idea would be for you to enroll in an ESOL class.

  13. Michelle Joiner | July 8, 2019 at 5:43 pm | Reply

    I would like to volunteer Can Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shulz help

  14. No one can argue with your basic point, but who is telling the people in power in countries like Honduras and Guatemala what their legal and moral obligations are towards these children?

    Who is prosecuting these people for failing to meet their legal and moral obligations?

  15. How can the public help? We need an initiative that will allow these children to receive proper care.

  16. What are you asking people to do to help? Yes it is cruel and evil that these children are treated like this. Also the adults.

    What can we do to help them?

  17. Leigh Emerson Smith | July 8, 2019 at 8:17 pm | Reply

    “The basic point” is that the children being held need emotional, physical and nutritional support. The children are already here, now. Admonishing people in Guatemala etc is not a priority at this point. If they could provide for their people, I’m sure they would. I’m not sure that we would be able to deliver any of this to the children in the detention ctr. However, we CAN contact Donna Shalala and our local, state and natl reps asking for assistance in our endeavor.

  18. Paola, how did you get access to the Homestead ( ?) apparently,NO ONE is allowed access! Do you work in this detention center? Only people working there can actually say WHAT is going on! If the children need help, there are many of us who have worked at DCPS that are willing to help in many ways!

  19. Why don’t you worry a bit more about the horrible schools in our poor neighborhoods, affecting mostly black underprivileged children? Oh I know why, it is because you are just another liberal educator with an agenda. Those children you are referring to are being used by adults and the Democratic party to stay here. Maybe donating your salary will be a great way to start helping “The Children.”

  20. Has anyone interviewed workers from inside the Homestead Shelter to get a true picture. There is a process for media and politicians to enter after a 114 day background check. Check out the South Dade Newsleader July 5th front page for inside information then make your comments

  21. Misprint on Phil’s comment: Should read 14 (fourteen) day back
    ground check!

  22. LIES LIES LIES!!!!
    All of your statements are completely untrue. Do you want a chunk of the money Caliburn is making?

  23. Vanessa Isaac | July 9, 2019 at 6:50 am | Reply

    I am not a teacher, but I would like to help these poor children as well. I am appalled at the insensitivity and apathy of our government towards the children and their parents. To separate children from their parents is traumatic, in humane, cruel, and stands against every thing that this country represents. The true heart of a nation is revealed by how it treats those from whom they have nothing to gain. These children need compassion, nurturing, and assurance that someone cares and that they have not been abandoned.

  24. Dr Richard Weiss | July 9, 2019 at 10:28 am | Reply

    The editor has allowed his community paper to be horribly politicized with this total garbage fake news because of his dislike or hatred for President Trump. This is 100% not in the spirit his papers have aimed for over the years. I’ll never pick up the Community News again and ask my doctors and the businesses I use around Kendall to stop advertising in this paper.

    • Donna Shelley | July 9, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Reply

      Dr. Weiss,
      I believe the author of this piece makes it very clear that she does NOT want to engage in discourse about one political party over another. Her request is simply to help children in need who are in our backyard being held in detention through no fault of their own. Children are not political pawns and should not be seen as such. They are children who are frightened, lonely, bored, confused and uncertain about their future. If reports are correct, some are sick and hungry. That makes me want to do something for them.

      • Hear Hear Donna! I myself failed in keeping my focus on the children as I scolded others for doing the same. Thank you for your clarity and the opportunity to learn through your calm and charitable demeanor.

  25. wilson gamboa | July 9, 2019 at 10:54 am | Reply

    After reading this article I am appalled at it content and attempted delivery under the guise of journalism. I can only assume the writer is referring to Homestead facility. A journalist should be impartial and objective in his or her writing. As I have been to these facilities I will attest to the following: These facilities were erected during past administration period. Secondly the facilities are meant to be transient and not permanent, meaning these people or children in this case are not meant to reside there permanently, the facilities provide hygienic, secure air conditioned shelter, proper nutrition, basic health care but health care nonetheless, and basic instructional programs. The writer confuses, perhaps purposely the purpose of these centers for a political end. The writer appeals to our morality and sense of community as if we had done something to the contrary, these children whom survived traveling through some of the most inhospitable geographical areas of our continent, and place in the care of groups which serve to enrich themselves by elicit means. The writer suggests that we place a bandaid and treat only the symptom instead of addressing the root cause. It is not the function of the State to provide emotional support for these children, that was the function of their families which evidently decided to forgo that responsibility by knowingly and purposely placing these very individuals in their current predicament purposely. I usually refrain from commenting on these issues but find myself exhausted from continual misrepresentation, false allegations and political exploitation of true and real issues. I am an immigrant to this wonderful nation, from the region where many of these peoples originate, I am also a veteran of two wars and self employed. I’ve had first hand experience and taken accounts from girls and women of a wide age range whom shared similar experiences of sexual assault, physical trauma. I have also had the misfortune of witnessing the recovery of remains long forgotten and recently perished in the southern border area. What the writer should be doing is presenting facts omitting political references and calling for the root cause of these issues to be fixed, so that we can avoid similar situations in the future.

  26. gema gutierrez | July 9, 2019 at 9:03 pm | Reply

    I work there and I can tell you the kids are well taken care. They eat well, clean clothes and they are constantly watched. The education scenario fails to meet all their needs and it is very noisy and overcrowded. These children come from hostile, violent environments and have experienced extreme poverty sI believe they are better off in the shelter for now until they can be reunited with family members.

  27. Helen Tennyson Lovely | July 9, 2019 at 9:54 pm | Reply

    Why do we have to politicize everything today? Why do we have to bring our President into this conversation at all? Why is every situation today played out in public in Yin and Yang scenarios & always contradictory? Let’s look at the facts objectively. I went to summer camp with mine. What parent would jeopardize their kids in this manner in the first place? They exposed them to the current situation as collateral damage for passage to the United States & damn the consequences. I have spoken to 3 individuals that are actually working there last week who say the kids, mostly teenagers are given all the basic care possible, given the ratio of staff to children. Go to Miami Rescue Mission here & see so many of our native born kids that attend classes there in the day & back on the street at night to sleep. We are not concerned about what type of mattress they have either because they have NONE. They are homeless & are happy with whatever they get. I have been there & I have seen them first hand. I have not been to Homestead. Listening to the array of politically motivated, diametrically opposite accounts coming from there by folks that have not seen them makes me sick. I will reserve my opinion until I see for myself. Meanwhile, if any of you want to help homeless & poor children, some babies go to Salvation Army, Rescue Mission, Camillus House or some others first. However, let me warn you there is no notoriety, photo ops, write ups or political gain from whatever you say or do. They do not matter in comparison. Do it for your heart & soul because they are the forgotten ones. Any yes, they are black & white & Hispanic & other but American so count as less.

  28. A public servant who stands up for children | July 11, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Reply

    What is stated in this article is a misrepresentation and an uninformed account. From someone who has experienced it first hand, and who stands up for children under any circumstance, I can attest that there is no inhumane treatment, no abuse, and no disregard for the children’s plethora of needs. It is sad that people have such little faith in our country, our government, and our fellow citizens. Are you implying that the thousands of employees there, many of whom are MDCPS employees, would not stand up for these children if they had witnessed the conditions you are resoundingly claiming? You have to be informed before you write something like this. You represent the children of Dade County but primarily the employees who care for them. Not a single one of them, whom I have ever met inside the shelter or outside of its safe confines, would ever receive a penny from an institution that is abusing the basic rights of, and disregarding the integrity of ANY child, no matter where they are from.

  29. Elcy Amisial | July 11, 2019 at 8:53 pm | Reply

    wow, This Paola person is not human, so angry combative, inhuman, evil, ignorant heartless, I am appalled. A woman, a Latina, to see children kept in cages and not feel a bit of compassion. These kids if allowed to stay here will be damaged goods as a result of this horrible treatment. Their mental state will be pretty shaky. No matter how (ridiculous) presumably “well-taking care of”, they have been like someone else commented, this is not right. Children should not be caged. Facts: $750 per day for each child, $1.9 million per day for John Kelly and that Paola is barking about ?????????. Horrible, heartless. You ought to be a shame .

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