MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A tent city setup for immigrant children in Homestead is shutting down this week.
The temporary tent city popped up next to Homestead Airforce base last June. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responded to the massive surge of children flooding the U.S. border – all of them arriving without parents.
On average, the U.S. saw about seven to eight thousand refugee children a year but in 2014 a massive influx occurred as children fled violence in central America.
In 2014, 58,000 children arrived – the most ever. The following year, it dropped down to 33,000 but things ramped up again in 2016 as President Donald Trump became the frontrunner for the Republican ticket.
About 95% of those arriving at the shelter came from Central America – specifically Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
When the facility opened in Homestead, media was allowed to tour but not record anything. Images of the tent city were provided to CBS4’s David Sutta by the federal government.
The facility was equipped to handle up to 800 children with vaccinations, schooling, and three meals a day.
Health and human services estimates the cost is roughly $500 a day per child. Children stay, on average, 34 days until being released to what is called a sponsor – typically their parents living in the U.S. or a close family member.
Nearly 10 months after opening, the facility is now being closed down. The reason – not as many unaccompanied children are crossing our border. As of April 1st, children will be relocated to other shelters or released to family.
According to Health and Human Services the Miami-Dade shelters processed and released 660 children to sponsors. Broward facilities handled about two-thirds less.
The reason the facility is being closed is simply supply and demand. The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border has dropped sharply since President Trump took office but the government plans to keep the facility on reserve status. This means they could reopen it if they see another surge of immigrants.