By Jim DeFede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida Senator Marco Rubio said he supports re-opening the detention center in Homestead for unaccompanied minors.

“I think we have no choice now,” Rubio said in an interview with CBS Miami. “In this particular case, they’re arguing they need to do it because of COVID and they don’t have time to process people.”

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The Homestead facility became a major flashpoint, with groups including Amnesty International decrying the conditions in the camps for unaccompanied minors. Under intense pressure, the Trump administration closed the facility in July 2019.

“But the bottom line is this,” Rubio countered, “we have seen a surge in minors coming to the border over the last month. And the reason why there’s a surge is because the message has gotten out that there is this new president, there’s the new administration. And if you show up over at the border with children, they’re going to process you. They’re going to get you into the country and they’re going to say you need to show up for an asylum hearing that most don’t even show up for.”

Immigration advocates take exception to a number of Rubio’s statements, noting that it is federal law that anyone showing up at a Port of Entry seeking asylum must be granted access and given a hearing.

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“Now, trust me when I tell you I feel tremendous compassion for these people. I understand what they are feeling. I do,” Rubio continued. “I also understand that the people that are bringing them here are horrible, evil human beings. These traffickers, they take advantage of them. They rape the women. And by the way, these people lie. They go back and they say there’s a new law in America you can now get admitted if you just bring a child. And we know this.”

“Now, what do you do with them when you’re at the border? How do we know that that’s really their parents? You have to confirm all these things. We don’t have a way to hold family units together, but we can’t rent some big hotel and put everybody in the same rooms. So you have to protect those children by putting them in a place. That’s what the Trump administration tried to do, and they were roundly criticized for it. That’s what the reality that the Biden administration is now facing.”

“And my point is when Trump did it, it was a humanitarian crisis. It was a human rights violation. But now that Biden is doing it, it will get very little attention, certainly won’t get the wall-to-wall coverage.”

Immigration groups have already begun criticizing Biden’s plan, including Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted: “This is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay – no matter the administration or party.”

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Rubio, however, overlooks several differences, experts say. The stated goal of Trump’s family separation policy at the border was to take children away from their parents by charging the parents with a crime, thereby justifying taking the kids away from them. The Trump administration lost track of many of the kids and Biden has pledged to find their parents.

Jim DeFede