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SPLC: Reopening of Migrant Child Prisons Morally Indefensible and Unnecessary

MIAMI – The Biden-Harris administration is reportedly planning to reopen the Homestead detention center to detain unaccompanied migrant children. The detention center was last used in August of 2019 before closing, following reports of sexual abuse and the revelation that the facility did not have a hurricane plan despite detaining up to 1,200 children. 

The facility is managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of Health and Human Services (HHS). A 2019 report from WeCount!, American Friends Service Committee and Earthjustice found that the site of the Homestead detention center contains toxins and contaminants and is prone to excessive noise pollution, posing significant harm to the health of the children detained there. The plans to reopen this facility in Florida come after the Biden-Harris administration already reopened a similar facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas. 

The following statement is from Oliver Torres, a senior outreach paralegal for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. 

“The detention of immigrant children is a repugnant, morally indefensible practice that must end. Our communities know all too well the human cost of subjecting Black, Brown and Indigenous immigrant children to prisons and away from their families and communities. Given the history of appalling abuse at Homestead and the Biden-Harris administration's own stated values, we are deeply disappointed that the administration is poised to reopen this prison, especially while more humane options are readily available.

“The Biden administration must end the cruelty of child detention. There are community-based, humane alternatives to detention such as NGOs, nonprofits and community sponsors that are ready to safely care for migrant children from the safety of homes. These options are safer and less traumatizing and will end our reliance on profit-driven private detention corporations. 

“As a candidate for president, Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Homestead detention center in 2019 and promised her administration would close such facilities. Just a month after taking office, the administration appears ready to abandon that promise. It’s not too late to change course.

“History has shown us that these facilities are anything but ‘temporary.’ We must not repeat these mistakes and expose more children to the long-term physical and mental health effects of detention. To simply return to the failed model of child detention of the pre-Trump era is a missed opportunity to meaningfully reimagine our immigration system, particularly with respect to immigrant children."