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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