A whole lot of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are visiting the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children this week. Not all of them, however, appear to have concrete plans as to what to actually do about the kids inside the shelter. But during a visit today, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a straightforward demand: Shut the place down.
"I come from a witnessing tradition to join others who witness," she said today using a megaphone. "When we see something that is wrong, we are called on not to stand by, not to be quiet, not to look the other way, but to come and to witness and to speak out. What is happening in Homestead to children is happening as a direct result of activities of the United States government. It is wrong. It is a stain on our country. And we must speak out. We speak out as a people. We speak out as moral citizens, not just of the United States, but of the world. We will stay here at Homestead until the facility releases these children and closes down."
She then reiterated her feelings in a tweet:
I went to the Homestead, FL detention center this morning to shine a light on what’s happening. There’s no place in this country for operating private prisons that profit off of cruelty. Detention centers like the one in Homestead should be shut down. pic.twitter.com/ttv7ziHATs— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 26, 2019
There are a lot of different ways that we get in the fight. And one of them is that you show up. I'm at the Homestead detention center today and I hope you'll be watching. https://t.co/vzXqUlaiIM— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 26, 2019
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Homestead is hot and barren, with a completely enclosed fence. I saw children being marched from one building to another in single file lines. No laughing, no playing. These are children who are prisoners. pic.twitter.com/7WB4G8sI5n— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 26, 2019
Legal advocates and activists have heaped plenty of criticism on the Homestead shelter in recent weeks. Lawyers allege children are held in unsanitary conditions, are kept for hundreds of days at a time in violation of federal law, and in some cases are depressed, crying themselves to sleep, and cutting themselves. New Times published a long-form account from multiple children earlier this week.
In response, Caliburn International, the for-profit firm that makes millions running the facility, circulated a fact sheet claiming the conditions are not, in fact, "prison-like" or "undesirable," as critics have said. Caliburn and the federal government say it's necessary to hold kids at the shelter until they can be reunited with properly vetted sponsors. But critics who've spoken to New Times argue the facility isn't needed. The Southern Poverty Law Center has even sued the federal government — and claims kids are being kept inside the compound on purpose so the feds can catch and detain their adult immigrant sponsors.
Warren is far from the only candidate visiting Homestead this week. California Rep. Eric Swalwell visited earlier, and Rep. Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders' wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, visited this afternoon. And a host of other candidates — including Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Julian Castro — say they plan to visit Friday.