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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A scheduled to visit by Senator Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children didn’t go as planned.
When they arrived to start the tour they were denied entry.
“They are refusing to let us in. This is a decision at the highest levels. They obviously are hiding something. They are using the excuse, get this, you have to apply two weeks in advance,” said Nelson. “I am ashamed of this administration for doing this.”
Nelson later learned from US Health & Human Services that there are nearly 100 children being held at the facility that were separated from their family.
Before attempting to enter the facility, Wasserman Schultz said the facility, which had roughly a thousand children, was being used for both children who arrived as unaccompanied minors as well as children separated from their families at the border.
“The Trump administration is engaged in a cover up,” said Wasserman Schultz. “They are also lying, putting out conflicting information.”
She added that when she pressed facility officials about the two week application period, she was stonewalled by the public relations person.
“I’m not waiting two weeks,” the congresswoman said. “I will continue to press to come not only here but to the facility in Cutler Bay as well as the one in Miami Gardens. Those two facilities are facilities, from what I understand, are housing younger children, much younger children, who have been separated from their families. We’re in session all this week so I plan to try again, at the very least, next Monday.”
Speaking to a guard blocking his entrance to the facility, Sen. Nelson asked, “This is my state of Florida, and we are being denied entry to see about the welfare of children?”
A handful of immigrant activists decried the bureaucratic shroud around the child detention center.
“We don’t even know how these children were brought here,” said activist Melissa Houtte. “Were they flown in here to Homestead Air Force Base? It’s all a big secret. This is not American.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott says they knew the homestead facility was reopening in February for unaccompanied minors but wants to make sure every child is being taken care of.
In a letter to the HHS, Scott wants to know:
Are you conducting health screenings both at the border and again at the time the children are placed in shelters?
What health, educational, or other social services have been provided to any children placed in Florida?
Scott also reaffirmed his stance on President Trump’s policy to remove children from their parents.
“I have been very clear that I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families,” Scott wrote. “This practice needs to stop now.”
Nelson, who has urged the Trump administration to stop its inhumane policy of separating families at the border, filed legislation in the Senate earlier this month to prohibit the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security from continuing the blanket policy of separating children from their parents at the border.
Over a five week period, more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents.
Wasserman Schultz has called for the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“While some Trump Administration officials brag about their heartless new child separation policy, Secretary Nielsen has repeatedly denied its existence,” Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz said. “Lying to the American people about the cruel way our government is treating children at the border makes her unfit to lead. Secretary Nielsen must resign and be replaced by someone who understands that tearing young children away from their parents is fundamentally un-American.”
President Trump was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to meet with Republicans on possible immigration reforms including a border wall.
Additionally, the House is expected to take up two immigration bills, crafted by Republicans, as early as this week. Both are expected to address the issue of families being separated but neither has a good chance of passing.
A CBS News poll shows 62 percent of Americans disapprove of the way President Trump is handling immigration.