Florida civil rights groups condemned on Tuesday that President Biden’s Administration is reopening a detention center in Homestead, south of Miami, which once housed 2,500 immigrant children and was closed in 2019 by Donald Trump’s Administration.
“It is outrageous” stressed Lis Marie Alvarado, Director of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in a statement on a reopening of the center, considered by Amnesty International (AI) as “cruel” and “illegal.”
“The detention of immigrant children is a repugnant, morally indefensible practice that must end,” said Oliver Torres of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
“We are deeply disappointed that the Administration is ready to reopen this prison, especially while more humane options are available,” he added.
Alvarado also said that while Biden “calls for ‘family unity,’ he is opening a detention center” that was closed due to overcrowded conditions and the lack of a security and evacuation plan in case of a hurricane, among other things.
The organization cited press reports about the reopening of the facility, located about 40 miles south of Miami and once was one of the largest in the country.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), however, has not officially commented on the reactivation of the center.
The Miami-Dade Democratic Party said in a statement that the detention center should remain closed.
“Miami-Dade activists fought tirelessly to close this facility, and we urge the Biden Administration to reconsider reopening it,” it stressed in a statement.
He stressed that they understand the complications of housing unaccompanied minors during the pandemic, but noted that “a prison is not an adequate alternative.”
A case of hypocrisy
Alvarado recalled that the current Vice President of the country, Kamala Harris, visited the shelter when she was a Senator, as did many other Congressmen to denounce the state of the minors and criticized it; and now with her in office they are reopening it.
Among them, then Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who denounced that there were four accusations of sexual abuse against the shelter staff and that three of the employees resigned or were fired, according to a report by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
“This is inexcusable. The detention of children is harmful, criminal and a violation of their human rights,” Alvarado said.
She added that the minors will be detained in a place that “could expose them to toxic chemicals from a Superfund site,” referring to land that is under a federal cleanup program due to contamination with hazardous substances.
The activist further stated that “there is excessive noise from planes taking off and landing on the nearby Homestead Air Reserve Base runway.”
“Under no circumstances should any child or adolescent, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, be held in a detention center. Instead, they should be reunited with their families. We condemn the Homestead detention center. We closed it before and we will close it again,” he stressed.