CBS Information good points entry to Homestead, Florida Detention Middle

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Detention centers hosting undocumented immigrant children have recently attracted attention as both conditions inside and detention centers are concerned restricted access for journalists and legislators. CBS News recently visited a detention center in Homestead, Florida, where lawmakers were previously denied entry.

Mark Strassmann, CBS News correspondent, took an escorted tour of the facility for almost an hour, but said there were some restrictions: You cannot walk alone or speak to children detained at the facility. There were 1,200 children – boys were two to one more numerous than girls. Most of the children were sent there within 72 hours if they were caught crossing the border.

“Officials go to great lengths to say that this is an ’emergency shelter’, not a detention center,” said Strassmann. There are dorms and classrooms inside, he said, describing it as a very rough looking community college.

The vast majority of children were unaccompanied minors who came to the United States alone. There were approximately 70 of the 1,200 children who were separated from their families and are in legal limbo. There is a case management center with about 15 employees trying to reunite children with their families. However, if their families are in detention, it is unclear how they will reunite with them.

About 85 percent of children are reunited with a parent, family member, or family friend. The others go to a sponsored or foster family, and maybe the 70 children end up there if they can’t identify family members or if the family members are in detention.

Immigration Florida

Migrant children go outside to the makeshift homeless shelter for unaccompanied children, a former Job Corps site where they are now housed, in Homestead, Florida on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Brynn Anderson / AP

Boys and girls, mostly kept separate, stood in line for the dining room and classes wearing government-issued cotton T-shirts and gym shorts. One group was playing basketball in the hot sun on a concrete court. Another group played soccer, screamed and laughed in a grass yard between the dormitories. Others watched cartoons in the waiting area of ​​a medical clinic. Girls, walking in a row to class in pink T-shirts, smiled shyly at a journalist and said, “buenos dias.”

Program Director Leslie Wood said 792 men and 387 women, ages 13-17, were held there, with more expected in the coming days. The vast majority are from Central America and came to the United States with no relatives, she said.

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“We provide all the services they need and treat them with care,” she said.

Entry was denied to the democratic legislature on Tuesday. Protesters have gathered outside accusing the Trump administration of attempting to cover up abuse amid outcry over pictures taken elsewhere of crying children and minors locked in what appeared to be cage-like cells.


Family separation could have negative health …

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Wood resisted the proposal to run a detention center. She said there were no cages or cell-like enclosures anywhere on the site, and the facility was focused on incorporating into American society and reuniting children with relatives.

“It’s not a detention center. I see it as a shelter,” said Wood. “A detention facility is much more restrictive.”

The facility, commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Human Services, is surrounded by a chain link fence, but there is no barbed wire. There are guards, but they are not armed. The doors have been removed from the dormitories.

Wood said a child tried to escape but the staff surrounded him before he could leave. She declined to provide additional details. “He was just worried; it was nothing,” she said.

Immigration Florida

Migrant children go outside to the makeshift homeless shelter for unaccompanied children, a former Job Corps site where they are now housed, in Homestead, Florida on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Brynn Anderson / AP

Wood said the children were not problematic overall. Some women who arrived pregnant or injured were transferred to other facilities. There have been no suicide attempts, she said.

At night, the lights in the rooms go out at 10 p.m., but stay on in the hallways. The children are woken up every day at 6:30 am for a full day program of activities and classes.

“These kids are really very good kids,” said Wood. “They are just fleeing violence and hardship in their countries.”

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