Report: Biden Backtracks, Says Homestead Migrant Camp Shouldn't Reopen

The Homestead shelter for migrant children won't reopen for now.EXPAND
The Homestead shelter for migrant children won't reopen for now.
Photo by Carrie Feit
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Activists, politicians, and the public cried foul last month when the Miami Herald reported that President Joe Biden's administration planned to reopen the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, an unlicensed, for-profit detention center that has held thousands of migrant children who have come to the United States without their parents.

Now, the news website Axios is reporting that Biden opposes the site's reopening and has intervened, ordering the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is in charge of caring for migrant children, to "find other options."

A White House spokesperson told Axios that the Biden administration "remains deeply engaged on the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border and we're working around the clock to find ways to more quickly process individuals and unite children with vetted and confirmed family members or sponsors."

The Homestead detention center opened under the administration of Barack Obama and became a symbol of Donald Trump's hard-line, zero-tolerance immigration policy of family separation. The camp was the subject of national outrage in 2019 because of reports of sexual abuse, human-rights violations, overcrowding, and negligent hiring practices. While inside, children were not allowed to hug each other, had snacks and friendship bracelets confiscated, and reported crying themselves to sleep at night out of fear they'd never be released.

Immigrant-rights and social-justice groups that previously led a grassroots campaign to shut down the facility told New Times the center was no place for children.

For now, it seems, they won't have to worry about Homestead opening up again.

Thomas Kennedy, Florida state director of the nonprofit United We Dream, says he was happy to hear the news.

"We get that the issue is complicated, but we're supposedly the richest and most powerful country in the world. We have the resources and the imagination to create something better. We just have to come up with something more humane," Kennedy says. "These are children we're talking about. We care about all folks in immigration detention, but when we're talking about children, it's especially heinous."

Kennedy credits the pressure that immigrant-rights groups placed on the administration. A coalition of those groups mobilized immediately upon reading the news in late February that the detention center might reopen.

"I know organizations like ACLU and American Friends Service Committee were part of conversations with the White House political director around this, that the Homestead facility and other influx facilities are just not what we're looking for out of this administration in terms of moral clarity and them reimagining how to tackle these issues," Kennedy says. "I think they got the message."

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