MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A new report from Amnesty International USA found that the Homestead facility housing migrant children must be shut down.
The report states that unlawful conditions at the facility are a direct result of US government policies “designed to punish rather than protect people trying to rebuild their lives.”
The report is titled No Home for Children: The Homestead ‘Temporary Emergency’ Facility.
It describes inadequate conditions at the facility, based on two visits by Amnesty International; one in April 2019 and one in July 2019.
“Homestead is not a home for children,” said Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights and Amnesty International USA. “Homestead is an industrial line for processing mass numbers of children, instead of focusing on their best interests. The message from this administration is clear: if children come to the US fleeing for their lives, the government will lock them up and make it as difficult as possible to secure their release.”
According to the report, over 2100 children ages 13-to-17 were housed at the facility in early April.
That number went up to nearly 2500 children at one point.
In the report, it states that the Homestead facility’s director confirmed that children spent an average of 89 days there.
“The facility in Homestead, Florida must be shut down as quickly as possible and children should be immediately placed in licensed, small-size shelters and released to appropriate sponsors. The senseless detention of children who faced horrific violence and persecution in their home countries, only to be put behind bars in the United States, is a stain on the US human rights record. Children who come to the US should be treated just like any other children and receive our care, not our contempt,” said Bell.
Caliburn International, the company that runs the facility, issued a response to the report that was included in its release.
In a letter dated July 10th, Caliburn states that the facility “is operated in accordance with United States law” and that the children receive “excellent care.”
ABOUT THE FACILITY
The Homestead shelter, which is the only for-profit child detention center in the country, currently houses over 1300 children, all ages 13 to 17 years old.
It is the largest child detention center in the United States for unaccompanied minors, at one point this summer housing around 3000 children.
The facility is run by Caliburn International, a Virginia based company awarded a government contract to manage the center.
President Donald Trump’s former Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, is on the company’s board.
Caliburn International operates the facility under a no-bid contract that is worth more than $350 million.
They are waiting to be reunited with their families or paired with sponsors once they are screened by the U.S. government.
Many of the children are fleeing gang and domestic violence and will end up seeking asylum.
Children sleep up to 12 per room in steel-framed bunk beds, and warehouse-sized, air-conditioned white tents where minors attend classes and watch movies.
The facility has a command center. Inside are cameras, computers, and staff members who watch over the kids. They keep track of how many kids are in the shelter and how many are moved.
While numbers vary, officials say most are reunited with family members. Those who are not can be at the shelter for as long as 57 days. On average, a child’s stay there is about 25 days.
The children have school six hours a day and there are recreational activities.
At night, lights go out in the rooms at 10 p.m. but are left on in the hallways. The children are awakened each day at 6:30 a.m. for a full day’s program of activities and classes.
During the day, the kids are provided breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks.
The children meet with their attorneys once a week. They also have access to clinicians and social workers.
On their arrival, they are given a five day supply of clothes, laundry is done every other day.
The facility, contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services, is surrounded by chain-link fence, but there is no barbed wire. There are guards, but they are not armed. Doors have been removed from the dormitory bedrooms.