Things That Matter

It’s Official, The Homestead Detention Facility That Housed Hundreds Of Young Migrants Is Now Empty And Kids Won’t Be Returning

Over the weekend, the last of the children still detained at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Miami, Florida were removed from the facility.

Homestead is operated by Caliburn International, a private, for-profit company under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

It’s the largest facility of its kind with a capacity for 3,200 beds.

Credit: Department Health and Human Services

According to some reports, as many as 3,000 of those beds were filled as late as last month though official numbers place that number at roughly 2,700. 

The company was compelled to reduce the number of children being held there to comply with government standards for emergency response. In July, the government halted plans to send more children to the facility and started the process of reducing the number of detainees down to 1,200.

However, just because the children were removed does not mean that the children are free to go or have been provided due process.

In fact, the question remains of what exactly will happen to the kids that are leaving. While the official response from the government is that they are placed with appropriate sponsors or taken to permanent facilities, those aging out of the system may simply be moved to the adult facilities instead of being released.

According to officials, the facility will remain open but empty and maintained by a reduced staff. According to a statement by HHS’ Office of Communications, “We anticipate an uptick in the number of referrals made to HHS this fall, based on historical trends.” It’s probable that the 1,200 beds will again be filled by children awaiting placement or trial.

While at first glance, it seems like a bit of a victory that Homestead as of now will no longer be in use, activists are still concerned about the wellbeing of the children.

HHS’s history of relocating minors has been messy at best. Negligent, if you call the failure to provide an acceptable level of record keeping what it is. Last year, the New York Times reported on how poor management led to children being cycled into trafficking circles. The agency declined to answer questions about where the children will be taken to. Only that they are released into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

This is not the first time we have seen the mass incarceration of children in the U.S.

Credit: Ansel Adams / Library of Congress

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which forced Japanese-Americans to move into internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With the perceived threat that spies could be hiding anywhere among anyone of Japanese descent, entire families were relocated to detention centers in California, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Arkansas, Colorado and Arizona. Many of those incarcerated in the camps were U.S. citizens and about half were infants, children, and teens.

It’s also not the first time Latinos as a group have been targeted by the U.S. government in regards to immigration. In 1954, under the Eisenhower administration, it is estimated that over a million people were deported to Mexico under the conceit that Mexican immigrants were taking jobs from U.S. citizens. 

The removal of children from Homestead follows months of reported mistreatment, abuse, and substandard living conditions. The Southern Povery Law Center filed a lawsuit in the beginning of the year against the Trump Administration citing the illegal prolonged detainment of these minors. The average stay of minors detained at Homestead was about 2 months. Advocates who work with detained youth populations insist that their experiences will have lasting physical and psychological effects through adulthood.As this situation develops, its important for those concerned with the humanitarian crisis at the border to keep watch and stay vigilent about advocating for better conditions and just treatment of individuals being detained at facilities across the U.S.

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10-Year-Old Boy Found Crying Alone Near Border Had Been Deported And Kidnapped With His Mom

Things That Matter

10-Year-Old Boy Found Crying Alone Near Border Had Been Deported And Kidnapped With His Mom

Anyone who has watched this video of a 10-year-old boy asking a Border Patrol officer for help through tears, can admit just how heartbreaking it is. The boy says he was left alone while traveling with a group across the border when they abandoned him.

But now his family is speaking out and sharing the backstory to the emotional video that further highlights just how urgently the crisis at the border needs to be addressed.

Video of a 10-year-old boy wandering near the border quickly went viral for how heartbreaking it was.

A heartbreaking video shared last week by Customs and Border Protection of an unnamed 10-year-old boy found wandering alone in Texas underscored how desperate the situation is on the southern border. The video showed a young Nicaraguan boy found on the side of a dirt road by an off-duty Border Patrol agent after wandering alone for four hours in the desert.

People reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection released footage of the incident, which happened on April 1 by a Rio Grande border patrol agent. The boy explains to the officer that he woke up and discovered that his group had left him behind. “I came looking because I didn’t know where to go, and they can also rob or kidnap me or something,” he told the officer. 

In a statement to the publication, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agent “transported the child to a Border Patrol facility where he was fed and medically screened.”

But now we’re getting a better understanding of what led to this heartbreaking video.

Now, the boy’s family have described his plight to the Washington Post. Little 10-year-old Wilton Obregon and his mom crossed the border into Texas last month but were expelled under Title 42, a policy that releases migrants back to Mexico without letting them seek asylum.

Hours after they were sent back, they were kidnapped, according to Wilton’s Miami-based uncle, Misael Obregon. The kidnappers called him and demanded a $10,000 ransom but Misael could only pay $5,000 so the kidnappers only released Wilton. They dumped Wilton back at the border. Obregon said his sister is still in custody of the kidnappers. “Now I’m worried that she’s going to die,” he said.

In fact, the boys mom called Misael Obregon on Friday morning, crying after seeing the video of her son crying at the border.

The family’s plight highlights the need for reforms to Title 42.

During the campaign, President Biden complained about the humanitarian consequences of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forced asylum seekers to wait for the their court hearings in Mexico. Many were forced to wait in dangerous refugee camps along the border that subjected them to human trafficking, violence, and sexual assault.

Under Title 42, though, which began under President Donald Trump and continues under Biden, asylum seekers are again in the same desperate situation. It’s unclear how many of them have been kidnapped.

“The Biden administration is winding down one of the Trump administration’s most notorious policies but at the same time it is expelling other asylum seekers back to the very same dangers, attacks and kidnappings through its continued use of the Trump administration’s Title 42 policy to evade U.S. refugee law,” Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, said in a statement.

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Despite Promises, President Biden Looks To Reopen A Child Migrant Center Facing Sexual Assault Allegations

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Despite Promises, President Biden Looks To Reopen A Child Migrant Center Facing Sexual Assault Allegations

Since taking office in January, President Biden has been hard at work addressing everything from the nation’s COVID vaccine program and economic response to comprehensive immigration reform. However, several of his planned changes have hit major roadblocks as federal judges (many appointed by Trump) strike down his new policies.

But despite much of his administration’s progress on issues that affect the Latino and immigration communities, the administration is seriously considering reopening one of the country’s largest child migrant detention centers.

The Biden administration looks to reopen the Homestead facility for children.

The Biden administration is facing a sharp increase of unaccompanied child migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border and they’re considering reopening one of the nation’s most controversial detention centers.

The Miami Herald reported that the feds might reopen the Homestead site under the name Biscayne Influx Care Facility, an announcement that has caused outrage among advocates working towards ending the detention of children altogether.

“That place has a history of all kinds of abuse and profiting off the lock-up of children,” said Lis-Marie Alvarado, program director of the Miami-based organization American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which led the call for Homestead’s closure in 2019. A move to reopen the facility is “appalling and a slap to our faces,” she said.

The center has a troubling history of sexual assault allegations.

The facility was in the news in 2019 following shocking allegations of sexual abuse and prison-like conditions, which drew the condemnation of several Democratic candidates for president, including current Vice President Kamala Harris.

Detaining children, particularly in such dire conditions, “is a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government,” she told a small crowd. Harris later described seeing “children lined up like prisoners” as heartbreaking. 

Homestead first opened as a temporary shelter in 2016 under President Barack Obama, closed the following year, and was reactivated in 2018. Between March 2018 and August 2019, it housed more than 14,300 unaccompanied minors ranging from 13 to 17 years old, including dozens who had been torn from their parents under Trump’s policy of separating families. The average length of stay in the facility was 52 days by March 2019, with some minors spending almost four times as long.

The hypocrisy of the administration is truly frustrating.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In June 2019, then-Senator Kamala Harris (and candidate for president) visited the Homestead facility demanding that it be shut down. She, along with several other Democratic lawmakers, joined a series of rallies at the center to denounce Trump’s cruel immigration policies. The facility was subsequently shut down just a month later after mounting public pressure.

But now, a year and half later, the facility might be reopened under the Biden-Harris administration.

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