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Why it’s time to shut down Homestead Detention Center

News & Commentary  |  By Kristin Kumpf, Feb 15, 2019

At Homestead Detention Center, children can spend weeks, even months in custody – which can cause lasting trauma and incalculable costs to children, families, and our communities.

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Children belong in schools and homes, not prison camps. But today, an estimated 1,600 child migrants are being held at Homestead Detention Center, about 30 miles south of Miami, Florida. It is the largest detention site for unaccompanied minors in the U.S. And that number will continue to grow.

Most have fled violence and poverty in Central America and are seeking asylum in the United States. Many will spend weeks or months in detention, with lasting traumatic effects.

Now is the time to stand with migrants from Central America and other parts of the world who are seeking safety and peace. Please join the American Friends Service Committee, community members, immigrant advocates, and many others in calling on the Office of Refugee Resettlement to shut down Homestead Detention Center.

Here’s what you need to know about Homestead and the impacts of child detention:

Homestead Detention Center is a child prison.

The detention center is adjacent to the Homestead Air Reserve Base and is surrounded by tall covered fences. Children sleep in military-like dorms and rooms that can hold 70 to 250 kids. They’re not allowed to leave the compound. And they’re overseen by guards and tracked as they move from room to room.

Homestead circumvents federal law that protect children in custody.
Since 1997, the Flores settlement has limited the amount of time the government can detain children. It also limits the detention of children and families to facilities with certain licensing and standards.

But because Homestead is considered an “emergency influx shelter” for children – the only one in the U.S. – the Flores settlement does not apply. This loophole leaves children unprotected from the harms of indefinite detention.

It’s unclear whether Homestead provides children with adequate education and mental health support.

Since Homestead has no state supervision, even the Miami-Dade school district does not know what kind of programming the private corporation running the facility is providing to children in detention. Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has criticized the shelter for its lack of transparency and expressed concerns about the inequity of the quality and standards of education provided to children in detention.

Detaining young people is extremely harmful. 

Keeping children in detention causes lasting trauma – and the cost of that to children, families, and our communities is incalculable. The American Association of Pediatrics had said that even short periods of time in detention can cause psychological trauma and long-term mental health risks.

There is no humane way to detain children and families.

The Trump administration is manufacturing the need to detain children.

Policies like family separation and the criminalization of immigrants is what is driving increasing numbers of “unaccompanied” children. The administration needs to stop criminalizing sponsors and instead support family reunification.

Corporations are profiting from detaining children.

It’s been estimated that Homestead is costing taxpayers $500,000 a day to operate – and companies are benefiting. Comprehensive Health Services (CHS), one of the largest government medical contractors in America, manages Homestead -- providing medical, mental health, educational, and other services. Its contract with the government could net the company as much as $190 million for a four-month period.

CHS was acquired by Caliburn International Corp. last year. In its October IPO filing, Caliburn stated that increased demand for services at Homestead was "projected to drive increased revenue over the back half of 2018 with this client." Other contractors have recently been awarded contracts, including the California-based American Canyon Solutions.

Homestead must be shut down immediately.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (within the Department of Human Services) must close Homestead immediately– and stop their complicity with breaking families and communities apart.

We must continue to work for an immediate end to the detention and deportation of immigrants.

Stopping child detention is imperative. But the problem extends to the whole system of immigration detention.

Homestead is just one example of the egregious human rights abuses facing immigrant children and adults alike. We must work to keep families, communities, and loved ones together – and push for immigration policies that respect the rights and humanity of all people. 

About the Author

Kristin Kumpf is the director of AFSC's Human Migration and Mobility.