Carrying signs reading “Homes Instead!” and “Stop Separating Families,” hundreds marched in the rain over the Father’s Day weekend to demand the closure of the prison camp for migrant children in Homestead, Florida. The site is currently jailing 1,300 migrant kids. Under the Trump administration’s anti-child policies, that number is expected to balloon to as high as 3,200 kids.
Advocates have been vocal in pushing for the closure of Homestead, which is unlicensed and has been described as “prison-like” by visiting members of Congress. In fact, children who have been released from the prison camp have said they were routinely threatened with prolonged detainment for breaking rules that even barred them from hugging each other.
“When I first came here, they gave us an orientation and told us that we had to follow the rules: no touching, five minutes for taking showers, 15 minutes to eat, no lending clothes, no taking any food into the bunk room, no sitting on anyone else’s bed,” said 13-year-old J.D. “If we don’t follow the rules or pay attention to the youth counselors they said, we would get a report. If you get a report, you’ll end up spending more time here.” This child abuse is making people a fortune, specifically the company that won a no-bid $341 million dollar contract from the federal government to run Homestead.
Immigrant rights leader Thomas Kennedy writes that “while Comprehensive Health Services and by extension its parent company Caliburn (which former DHS head and Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly sits on the board) is clearly benefiting from public sector dollars, it is also being heavily financed by corporate backers. Financial documents show that Bank of America is one of Caliburn’s main financiers, providing a $380 million loan and a $75 million revolving credit line.”
Outside Homestead, advocates like Rabbi Judith Siegal stood on stepladders so that their signs of solidarity could be visible to the jailed children on the other side of the tall fencing. “We see you, we love you,” they said. “Los vemos y los queremos.” In photographs posted by the American Friends Services Committee, children, some wearing orange caps, can be seen being shuffled from one tent to another. In one picture, a boy can be seen waving back to the group outside.
No child belongs in detention, period. “In Homestead, this detention facility has been allowed to attach a for-profit motive to the detention of hundreds of immigrant kids while operating without transparency or accountability,” Kennedy says. “The result is a place where children are packed like sardines in over capacity bedrooms and classrooms, and are not allowed to touch each other for months at a time while enduring mistreatment.” Shut Homestead down.