Homestead, United States, Feb 25 (efe-epa).- With signs of frustration and disgust, activist groups asked President Joe Biden’s government Thursday not to follow in the footsteps of Donald Trump, and reject reopening the Homestead detention center for undocumented minors in southeast Florida.
In front of the city’s municipality headquarters, activists acknowledged their disbelief in repeating a request made two years ago, when the center with a capacity for 1,200 minors became “a symbol” of the strict immigration policies during the Republican’s term.
“It is not the right way to handle this situation,” said Thomas Kennedy of United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth network in the US, who argued for the reunification of minors with relatives in their country or sending them to host families instead of taking them to a center that “looks like a military base.”
In addition to information leaked by the press about the possible reopening of the controversial center, located about 40 kilometers south of Miami and one of the largest in the country, the activists said local groups have been aware of efforts made to hire personnel.
The US Department of Health (HHS) has not officially ruled so far on the reopening of the place, closed in August 2019 after a national campaign featuring candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, including current Vice President Kamala Harris.
Kennedy said at that time that the senator for California came to refer to the center as “a violation of human rights perpetrated by the United States Government” and that is why he now asked the same opposition from the “prominent place” that it has in the administration of Democrat Biden.
The activists alluded to the complaints made before the closure of this center, which housed up to 2,700 undocumented minors, about cases of negligence, misconduct and sexual abuse committed against children held there.
Guadalupe de la Cruz, from the American Friends Service Committee Florida group, recalled a report by that organization that also highlighted exposure to toxic substances when at least 16 sources of contamination were discovered within a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the center.
She also referred to “unacceptable noise levels” from planes taking off and landing at the nearby Homestead Air Reserve Base.
The activist said none of the suggestions had been heard and added that a complete analysis of the soil, groundwater and air in the center be carried out before reopening the site, which should include the bedrooms, outdoor game areas and tents.
De la Cruz told EFE that for each child there was “a profit of more than $ 700” that went to the Caliburn International company, which took over the management of the center when Trump reopened it in 2018 in response to the severe repression against migrants under his mandate. This included the forced separation of thousands of children from their parents.
Kennedy said that between 2018 and 2019, the private firm received about 350 million dollars from taxpayers.
Mariana Martinez, also from the American Friends Service Committee Florida, said “there is no need to reopen this center,” in which, according to information, some minors “were lost,” and requested “transparency” in the process.
Melissa Taveras, from the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said it might be time to consider opening a center that received complaints of overcrowding in the midst of a pandemic.
The activists called for the Florida Democratic Party to oppose the plan to reopen the center as a bloc, and welcomed that some elected officials have spoken out against the idea, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who told President Biden to explore other options.
“It is important for our community to hear directly from the Joe Biden Administration in the coming days about the plans around this facility as they work to reunite families,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
Nikki Fried, Florida Agriculture Commissioner, the only Democrat in Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration, said Thursday in a virtual forum that detention centers like the one in Homestead were not needed, but immigration reform.
Federal congresswoman for New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, after learning of the opening this week of a center for undocumented minors in Carrizo Springs, in Texas, the first of its kind during the current administration, said the immigration system in the US “is based on a prison framework.”
In the case of Homestead, De la Cruz emphasized the lack of a safety and evacuation plan in the event of a hurricane.
“It is an old infrastructure and represents a threat to the safety of children”, who deserve “dignified and quality care,” he said. EFE-EPA