An estimated 1,000 migrant children are being held at a heavily guarded federal compound outside Miami. Yesterday guards at the facility threatened to arrest a New Times reporter who arrived at and first reported that the prison-like facility was operational. They later made similar threats to reporters from the Miami Herald and WPLG.
This morning, President Trump's Office of Refugee Resettlement also refused to allow two sitting lawmakers to enter the facility. Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who first disclosed that hundreds of migrant children had been shipped to the facility, were both denied access to the compound.
.@SenBillNelson and Rep. @DWStweets have been denied entry to the detention center holding up to 1,000 immigrant children in Homestead, Florida. They are currently trying to access the facility. pic.twitter.com/iUblTfg2pe— Tomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) June 19, 2018
"HHS just blocked us from entering its facility in Homestead, Florida to check on the welfare of the children being held here," Nelson tweeted minutes ago. "They are obviously hiding something, and we are going to get to the bottom of this."
In the clip, a representative from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) pushes through a gaggle of TV cameras to reach Nelson and Wasserman Schultz. He introduces himself and says a representative from ORR is willing to speak to the lawmakers — in a separate building across the street.
"We'd like to go into the facility," Wasserman Schultz says. "We're happy to speak to you inside the facility."
Nelson then adds that the congresswoman was
Wasserman Schultz says she spoke earlier to the contractor who runs the facility — Comprehensive Health Services — which gave the lawmakers approval to enter the building. The man then vanishes to "talk" to his bosses.
The media event came after New Times first reported yesterday about the facility. The building, the former Job Corps site near Homestead Air Reserve Base, was first opened in 2016 as a housing complex for migrant kids under President Obama but was soon closed after border apprehensions dropped that year.
But unbeknownst to the public, the Trump administration quietly reopened the facility a few months ago. According to estimates from Wasserman Schultz's office and other immigrant activists, roughly 1,000 migrant children are being held there, most of whom have been flown in from other parts of the country.
The ORR has repeatedly refused to say how many children crossed the border unaccompanied as opposed to being ripped from their families according to Trump's heinous new family-separation policies.
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In a presser outside the facility today, Nelson told reporters he'd been told at least one child at the facility was brought to Homestead after being taken from his or her parents. WLRN's Danny Rivero reports that Wasserman Schultz also said she'd learned about two other permanent facilities — in Miami Gardens and Cutler Bay — housing even younger children.
The company running this facility told us we would be welcomed to tour the facility. HHS then denied us entry and said that they need “two weeks notice” to allow us inside. That’s ridiculous and it’s clear this administration is hiding something.— Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) June 19, 2018
Nelson, DWS & McGhee have been officially denied access to the immigrant child detention facility. Nelson, noting he sits on Armed Services Committee, and DWS say they have classified clearance & can’t understand why they can’t see the kids inside.— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) June 19, 2018
“It’s a coverup” DWS says
Other lawmakers have remained quiet about the facility thus far. The compound sits in GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo's district, but the congressman has not yet responded to New Times' questions about whether he'll do anything about it.