HOMESTEAD (CBSMiami) – An activist group is demanding transparency after the Homestead facility for unaccompanied minors reported that all of the children they had sheltered have been moved out of the site.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Saturday that the children, “have either been reunified with an appropriate sponsor or transferred to a state-licensed facility within the ORR network of care providers as of August 3, 2019.”
On Monday, the Florida Immigrant Coalition held a news conference in front of the facility, wanting to know how many of the children went to their facilities and how many were released to family members or sponsors.
“We need accountability and transparency to make sure that this no longer happens and that this trauma doesn’t keep happening to our immigrant families and children,” said one organizer.
“We are going to make sure and keep advocating and organizing so that the children who are aging out do not end up in deportation proceedings or in other camps as well,” she added.
The shelter was emptied reportedly because of a looming tropical storm threat and according to the federal government, they will not be back.
Since the facility’s activation in March 2018, about 14,300 unaccompanied minors were brought to the site, according to HHS.
The department said no new children had been placed in the facility since July 3, 2019.
South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz agreed with the activists that the facility and the government need to be clear where the children ended up.
“I will seek a full accounting of where these hundreds of children who were reportedly relocated from the Homestead detention center ended up. While this is being portrayed as a safety measure, given this Administration’s abysmal and cruel track record, I fear it’s an attempt to skirt scrutiny and accountability. These young people must be connected with eligible sponsors. They must not be reshuffled through this Administration’s brutish migrant detention system. It is also disturbing that the facility was suddenly able to relocate more than 3,000 children in under a month,” she said in a statement over the weekend.
Caliburn International, the company which runs the facility, is expected to keep the facility open with a skeleton staff of around 300 employees, in case the Trump administration plans to send more children or permanent shelters become too crowded.
“We will continue working with Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement to support their requirements in providing bed capacity as needed at Homestead for future unaccompanied alien children (UAC) care and services. Our top priority will always remain providing a safe and caring environment for UAC while striving to expeditiously unite them with appropriate sponsors.”
WATCH JIM DEFEDE’S SPECIAL INSIDE THE HOMESTEAD FACILITY: THE WHISTLEBLOWER:
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ABOUT THE FACILITY
The south Miami-Dade shelter, which is the only for-profit child detention center in the country, was the largest child detention center in the United States for unaccompanied minors. At one point this summer it housed around 3,000 children.
Caliburn International, a Virginia based company, was 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.
Many of the children that were housed at the facility are fleeing gang and domestic violence and will end up seeking asylum.
Children slept up to 12 per room in steel-framed bunk beds. In warehouse-sized, air-conditioned white tents they attended classes and watch movies.
The children had school six hours a day and there were recreational activities.
At night, lights went out in the rooms at 10 p.m. but were left on in the hallways. The children were awakened each day at 6:30 a.m. for a full day’s program of activities and classes.
During the day, the kids were provided with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks.
The children met with their attorneys once a week. They also had access to clinicians and social workers.
On their arrival, they are given a five day supply of clothes, laundry was 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.