Today, Reps. Donna Shalala (FL-27), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26) called for the closure of the Homestead Temporary Shelter and for the transition of the children being held there to smaller facilities managed by non-profit organizations better equipped to care for them and transition to family or sponsors more quickly. The Congresswomen’s call for a shutdown of the Homestead Temporary Shelter follows the recent release of court documents that detail descriptions of psychologically isolating, “prison-like” conditions the children endure at Homestead.
As reported by the Miami Herald, the lengthy court document provides more disturbing details about the mental and physical damage being inflicted by the prolonged detention of these children, including the strict rules they must follow, such as no water or bathroom breaks without permission and only two 10-minute calls a week to communicate with family members.
After previous oversight visits to the facility, all three Members raised concerns about the harsh conditions, inadequate resources and lengthy stays the children experience at the shelter. However, after federal officials announced the facility would significantly increase its capacity – from 2,350 to 3,200 beds, the Congresswomen were denied access to spot-check the facility. Last month, they requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General investigate various issues related to the facility’s conditions, oversight access, and contracting concerns.
Details from the latest court documents add to the mounting problems plaguing the facility and the children it houses.
“When I first toured the Homestead shelter in February, I was deeply disturbed by what I saw: hundreds and hundreds of children crammed into a prison-like facilities with inadequate resources. When my colleagues and I tried to follow-up with a visit in April, we were denied access to the shelter, and therefore prevented from exercising our constitutional obligation to conduct oversight. After reviewing the court document, I think it’s time to take steps toward closing the Homestead facility and transferring these unaccompanied children to smaller shelters operated and overseen by experienced non-profit groups that have welcomed immigrants for years. The officials overseeing the shelter have clearly demonstrated that they do not have the skill or the understanding to properly care for these children and move them more quickly to family members or sponsors,” said Rep. Shalala.
“It’s time to shutter the so-called ‘temporary emergency’ Homestead detention center. The ever expanding numbers and lengths of stay there are neither temporary nor emergent. The Trump administration must finally provide these young people with humane living conditions that treat them with dignity, ensure basic human rights, and provide comprehensive support and services. The latest court documents detail heartbreaking conditions that hundreds of children endure there every day. This must come to a quick and sensible end, one that prioritizes the welfare of these young people. Coupled with the denial of basic oversight, prolonged stays, and contract and conflict concerns tied to the for-profit operators, it is time for swift action to connect these young people with eligible sponsors, or move them into non-restrictive, licensed community-based residential facilities,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz.
“The Homestead child detention facility has come to symbolize everything that is wrong with the Trump Administration. Reports of dangerous and scarring conditions are becoming too common. As of June 1, the 2019 hurricane season has begun, and neither the Administration nor the company operating the facility has a hurricane evacuation plan in place. When I first visited the facility, I was shocked and heartbroken at the prison-like conditions children are being detained in. Sadly, those conditions have only worsened as they continue to cram more children into already-limited spaces. It’s time the Administration begin taking the necessary steps to relocate the children who are fleeing violence and poverty to safe environments where they can prosper and begin living the American Dream – not the nightmare manufactured by a corrupt, greedy, and heartless Administration. The Homestead child facility must be shut down, so we can restore our country’s values of being a refuge for immigrants,” said Rep. Mucarsel-Powell.