With signs of frustration and disgust, groups of activists requested this Thursday, February 25, 2021, to the Government of Joe Biden that does not follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, Donald Trump, and dismiss the idea of reopen the center detention for undocumented minors in Homestead, in southeastern Florida.
In front of the headquarters of the municipality of this city, the activists acknowledged their disbelief at repeating an order made two years ago, when the center with capacity for 1,200 minors became “a symbol” of the strict immigration policies during the Republican term.
“It is not the correct way to handle this situation,” said Thomas Kennedy of United We Dream, the network of young immigrants bigger in EE.UU. and who suggested instead the reunification of minors with relatives in the country or their sending to host families rather than taking them to a center that “looks like a military base.”
In addition to information leaked by the press on the possible reopening of controversial center, located about 40 kilometers south of Miami and one of the largest in the country, activists pointed out that local groups have learned of efforts made to hire personnel.
The Health Department (HHS, in English) has not officially ruled so far on the reactivation of the place, which was closed in August 2019 after a national campaign of which candidates for the presidential nomination by the Democratic Party were part, including the current vice president Kamala Harris.
Kennedy recalled that at that time, the senator for California He came to refer to the center as “a violation of human rights perpetrated by the United States Government” and for this reason he was now asked by the same opposition from the “prominent place” that it has in the Democratic administration Biden.
Reports of neglect and abuse
The activists alluded to complaints made before the closure of this center, which came to house up to 2,700 undocumented minors, on cases of negligence, misconduct and sexual abuse committed against the children held there.
Guadalupe de la Cruz, from the American Friends Service Committee Florida group, recalled a report of that organization which also highlighted exposure to toxic substances when at least 16 sources of contamination are discovered within a mile (1.6 kilometers) of the center.
He also referred to “unacceptable noise levels” caused by planes taking off and landing in the vicinity.to Homestead Air Reserve Base.
The activist regretted that none of the suggestions had been listened to and reaffirmed in the request that before reopening the site a analysis complete soil, groundwater, and air in the center, which should include bedrooms, outdoor play area, and tents.
In statements to Efe, De la Cruz said that for each child there was “a profit of more than USD 700” that went to the Caliburn International company, which took over the management of the center when Trump reopened it in 2018 in response to the severe repression against the migrants of his mandate, and that included the forced separation of thousands of children from their parents.
Kennedy stressed that between 2018 and 2019, the private firm received some USD 350 million from contributors.
Mariana Martínez, also from the American Friends Service Committee Florida, stressed that “there is no need to reopen this center”, in which, according to what they were informed, some minors “were lost”, and also requested “transparency” in the process.
For her part, Melissa Taveras, from the Florida Immigrant Coalition, wondered if in the middle of a pandemic now is the time to consider opening a center that received complaints for overcrowding.
Immigration reform or prisons
The activists called for the Democratic Party Florida must oppose the plan to reopen the center as a whole, and they welcomed that some elected officials have spoken out against the idea, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who asked President Biden to explore other options.
“It is important for our community to hear directly from the Joe Biden Administration in the coming days about the planes around this facility as they work to reunite families, “he said in a statement Wednesday.
Nikki Fried, Florida Agriculture Commissioner, the only Democrat in the administration of Governor Ron DeSantis, said this Thursday, February 25 in a virtual forum that detention centers like the one in Homestead were not needed, but rather immigration reform.
For its part, federal congressman for New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, after learning of the opening this week of a center for undocumented minors in Carrizo Springs, Texas, the first of its kind during the current administration, lamented that the immigration system in EE.UU. “It is based on a prison framework.”
In the Homestead case, De la Cruz stressed the lack of a hurricane evacuation and safety plan.
“It is an old infrastructure and represents a threat to the safety of children,” who deserve “dignified and quality care,” he stressed.