U.S. Spends $500,000 a Day on Homestead Child-Migrant Camp

U.S. Spends $500,000 a Day on Homestead Child-Migrant Camp
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services / Flickr
The Trump Administration did not need to rip children from their families at the U.S. border. The White House simply chose to do that to intentionally broadcast our nation's cruelty and barbarity to the world. Trump's cabinet also does not need to house unaccompanied kids in tent cities, including the child-migrant camp currently operating in Homestead, Florida. Many immigrant-rights groups say it's easier and more humane to let migrant kids live with U.S. relatives or foster groups.

But instead, according to publicly available documents published this week, Americans are blowing $500,000 per day in public funds to keep the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in South Miami-Dade running. The shelter opened under Barack Obama to hold children who were showing up to the U.S. border, mostly from Central American countries such as Honduras and El Salvador. It closed in 2017, but New Times first reported in June that the Trump Administration had reopened it with little public disclosure or reporting and had quietly placed more than 1,000 children there.

(As it turns out, documents show multiple politicians from both political parties were told the facility was going to reopen under Trump, but, oddly, forgot to tell anyone.)

Now, the news site Quartz has dug up publicly available budget documents showing just how much money Americans are spending to keep the shelter open: about $17 million every month. According to federal budget documents, the United States has spent $140 million since February to operate the shelter.

New Times has previously reported that the contractor running the site, Cape Canaveral-based Comprehensive Health Services, received a tax-incentive package from Gov. Rick Scott right after the company paid out a $3.8 million medical-fraud settlement to the U.S. government. According to USASpending.gov, a website that tracks government contracts, a new, 1,330-bed contract worth as much as $187 million over four months went into effect July 7.

But there are obvious questions about the quality of care in the facility. It is a former Job Corps vocational-training site built from the ground up with space to house and feed students. The center has since been converted to a campus for children with bunk beds, outdoor sports facilities, classrooms, and medical facilities. But at the same time, the kids are overseen by guards and tracked as they move from room to room. They are not allowed to exit the compound.

One Guatemalan woman, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke to New Times about her time inside the facility during the Obama era. While she said she received worse treatment at migrant facilities in Texas, she said her life at Homestead was no cakewalk: Her family members told New Times that guards there taunted them and threatened to blackmail the woman or have her deported once she turned 18. Her uncle, who lives in the United States, described the facility as "child prison."

Immigration officials are also illegally sending migrant kids directly from the Homestead compound to adult detention facilities once they turn 18. New Times reported in August that at least 14 children have been sent directly from Homestead to the Broward Transitional Center, an adult Immigration and Customs Enforcement prison, on their 18th birthdays. Immigration attorneys told New Times that three legal precedents should protect migrant children from being handed over to ICE when they turn 18, but that federal officials regularly flout those rules.

Former workers at the facility have also come under fire: One woman was convicted in 2017 for sexually exploiting an underage boy living in the Homestead compound. Other workers have told the Miami Herald that the number of private contractors working at the facility seemed fiscally irresponsible. And, in July, a 15-year-old Honduran girl somehow escaped from the facility and hid out at a nearby auto shop before someone returned her to law enforcement.

In the meantime, the facility has attracted gigantic masses of protesters, repeatedly demanding it be closed. They want the children released to their families, willing foster families, or facilities where they are at least not surrounded by locked fences 24/7.

There are signs the federal government may blow even more money on needlessly imprisoning child immigrants. President Trump yesterday stood at a podium and ranted about how he basically wants to create more concentration camps tent cities to house migrants, and that the immigrants will either be deported or never, ever allowed to leave. In addition to being morally heinous, it turns out that running never-ending kid prisons is costly, too.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.