On February 18th, Rep. Donna Shalala (FL-27), former Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), toured the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children where unaccompanied child migrants as young as 13 are being detained. She was joined by Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), and Sylvia Garcia (D-TX).
“I am also concerned for unaccompanied children who do not have relatives in the United States. When they turn 18, they are put in shackles and turned over to ICE.”
Rep. Donna Shalala
The shelter is the largest for-profit shelter in the country and plans to add a thousand more beds to accommodate up to 2,350 children. After the closure of a similar facility in Tornillo, TX, the shelter in Homestead now remains as the only shelter for migrant youth run by a for-profit company. HHS oversees the shelter.
“It’s unacceptable to house children in these situations for a long period of time, especially knowing that the facility is operating outside of state child welfare regulations,” said Rep. Shalala.
“The system itself is flawed, and I believe the definition of ‘unaccompanied’ is much too narrow. I am also concerned for unaccompanied children who do not have relatives in the United States. When they turn 18, they are put in shackles and turned over to ICE. That’s simply inhumane and un-American. There are ways we currently deal with children who have aged out of foster care, perhaps similar measures can be applied for children aging out of detention facilities. We need to remember that we are dealing children, not criminals.”
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