By Carmen Sesin
MIAMI – A delegation of House Democrats on Tuesday visited one of the country's largest settlements hosting unaccompanied migrant children – a visit that a representative called "cold."
The unaccompanied migrant homestead shelter, located approximately 25 km southwest of Miami, is under surveillance as it is the only one in the United States operated by a for-profit corporation and, as a settlement federal, it is not subject to state regulation.
Several Democratic lawmakers have called for the establishment of filtering facilities such as Homestead, citing the lack of supervision and the length of detention of children.
The delegation included representatives of Congress President Hispanic Caucus Joaquin Castro and Sylvia Garcia, both of Texas, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala, both of Florida.
"As a mother, it was very difficult to watch. It looks like a prison, "said Mucarsel-Powell.
The facility is located in his district and is operated by a private company for the Department of Health and Human Services.
"What I did not see – and this is a message for the Trump administration – I have not seen criminals, nor gang members. I've seen children who hoped that this country will welcome them, "said Mucarsel-Powell.
She spoke with a girl who had been in the institution for nine months after being separated from her aunt who was crossing the border.
According to the Associated Press agency last week, 1,575 children aged 13 to 17 were present in the Homestead facility, describing a population count seen on a screen at the Command Center of l & # 39; establishment. DHS announced in December that it would add 1,000 beds to the shelter.
Shalala called the system unacceptable and said it was the reason why the company had got rid of the orphanages many years ago. She said that the term "unaccompanied" is too narrow. "If you do not come with a parent but with an aunt, uncle, cousin or brother, you are defined as unaccompanied".
She said she was concerned about unaccompanied children who do not have parents in the United States. When they become adults and leave the facilities, they are taken into chains, "essentially in a prison. And what happens to them next, you do not want to know, "said Shalala.
"It was a scary experience, not because the staff working here is not trying to do the best for children, but because the system itself is unacceptable," said Shalala. "It is unacceptable to put children in this kind of situation for a very long time."
Castro, who visited other institutions hosting children and migrant families and criticized some of them, said the policy of separation and prolonged detention of immigrant families and Trump's government kids "are part of a morally bankrupt system".
"The boys and girls we visited in Homestead today are the ones Donald Trump has made his political career on," said Castro.
Garcia said that it was the fourth facility she had toured and that she saw nothing that warrants spending $ 750 per child per day, as does Homestead, compared to some who spend about $ 250 a day.
Last week, reporters had a glimpse of the facility. Comprehensive Health Services Inc., which operates the facility, has hired 230 employees and welcomed 225 more children since December, when federal authorities announced the expansion.
The new federal requirements require a more in-depth background check on families, which has slowed the release of children by family members.
According to the Associated Press, the Florida Department of Children and Families said it had no jurisdiction with respect to children at Homestead because it was an accident. a federal institution.
Suzanne Gamboa contributed to reports from Austin, Texas.
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