In Homestead, there are almost 3,000 children being detained by a for-profit company simply because they are fleeing violence and extreme poverty in their home countries. Since I took office in January, I have visited the detention facility several times to make sure these children are being taken care of and that they are being connected with family members or sponsors here in the United States. The Homestead child detention facility symbolizes everything that is wrong with the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, and steps must be taken for it to shut down.
I had already seen first-hand the prison-like conditions these children are held in, but last week, a 705-page court document reported that these conditions are potentially causing permanent psychological damage – conditions that Trump Administration officials were clearly scared to show me during several visits. Given the blatant and egregious violations of basic human decency I and many others have witnessed at Homestead, I am glad that judicial action is being pursued. Children are being held in illegal conditions which, as expected, is having a detrimental impact on them. I hope the Court recognizes the need to issue a ruling quickly and treat children fleeing poverty and violence with the morality and basic human decency that the law calls for.
Another issue that troubles me is the lack of a plan to evacuate and relocate the thousands of children at this facility in case of a hurricane. In South Florida, we know we need to be prepared during hurricane season for severe wind and flooding. In the last decade, Florida has seen multiple hurricanes and dozens of tropical storms with increasing intensity and frequency. We’ve experienced numerous deaths and disastrous physical damage.
During my last visit to the Homestead facility on Wednesday, May 29, I was explicitly told that there is no plan in place to evacuate or relocate the children prior to a natural disaster. It is extremely alarming that an evacuation procedure for these children does not yet exist. The facility has been in operation for over 17 months and it is incomprehensible that no evacuation strategy has been created, especially in an area so vulnerable to hurricanes and natural disasters. The director told me that they would have a finalized plan within 7 to 10 days – I haven’t heard back from the company or the Trump Administration.
When I first visited the facility, I was shocked and heartbroken at the prison-like conditions children are being detained in. Sadly, those conditions have only worsened as they continue to cram more children into already-limited spaces. Everything about the Homestead detention facility is deeply troubling and should make us all angry this is happening in our own community. Children are being held in terrible conditions, and private companies that hire former top White House employees are profiting from the same cruel immigration policies that separated families.
Reports of dangerous and scarring conditions are becoming too common. Hurricane evacuation plans haven’t been created yet. It’s time the Trump Administration begins taking the necessary steps to close down Homestead and relocate the children to safer and healthier environments where they can prosper – not the nightmare manufactured by corrupt, greedy, and heartless immigration policies. For the United States to continue being a country that embraces immigrants, the Homestead child detention facility must be shut down.