As I prepare to leave for the largest detention center of teenagers seeking asylum in the United States, the feeling of urgency is only increasing. Those currently witnessing on the ground are reporting out the secrecy shrouding the center. Even while their access to the streets leading into the center are being restricted by intimidation and threats, they report how buoyed the teenagers are when they see the witnesses and their signs. I wish I could be there right now. Here are the facts behind Homestead, FL:
- A group of lawyers who were given access to two dozen children told HuffPost that the “conditions inside the ‘temporary’ shelter at Homestead are troubling and not suitable for any child, especially over a long period of time.”
- Neha Desai, the National Center for Youth Law director wrote to Huffpost, “I spoke with youth that slept in rooms with 100 other kids at night. Some of them have been there for months on end, with no freedom of movement, no privacy, no human contact.” Later reports estimate that the number of children in rooms is more than 200. Others have described the situation as inhumane as children are packed in “like sardines.”
- The New York Times has reported that children have inappropriately limited access to attorneys.
- The Times further reported that because the center is considered temporary, teachers are not certified, are not provided by the local school district, and there is no oversight of the education Homestead claims it is providing.
- In a November 27, 2018 memo, the Office of Inspector General raised concerns that staff members working in these facilities are not fingerprinted by the FBI which “could significantly compromise the safety and well-being of UAC [Unaccompanied Alien Children].”
- Yesterday (February 19th), a congregational delegation toured the Homestead facility. Representative Debbie Mucarsel was in tears as she answered questions about what they saw. Representative Joaquin Castro said, ““What we’ve seen so far has been extremely troubling.”
- Lawyers, reporters, and members of Congress have all stated that one of the most disturbing aspects of Homestead is the desperation these children have for simple human contact. Siblings are separated and only see each for an hour each day. Children share that they are without adult kindness and care. Physical contact is prohibited.
- Congresswoman Donna Shalala said that when children age out, turning 18, they are shackled and taken to an ICE prison.
I will continue to add to this list today as more information is shared by the witnesses outside Homestead and by members of Congress.
Tonight, I will be at Congressman Mark DeSaulnier’s town hall. While my initial conversation with his legislative aide on the issue of immigration was not fruitful, I am hoping to get a statement from the Congressman tonight. I will keep you posted.