Despite public uproars about the current “zero tolerance” procedure for dealing with immigrant families who tried to cross the U.S. border illegally, as well as the terrible conditions children are being kept in, stories coming from temporary shelters such as the 3,200 bed facility located in Homstead, Florida continue to come out. The south Florida shelter is the first for-profit child detention center in the United States, and public reports have stated that these children are not being overseen by state child-warfare workers, nor are they licensed by them. Despite the fact that the United States government is supposed to have children released from these centers after 20 days, it has been said that some of the children have been held for up to eight months. A Miami news publication stated that “Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell had been asking for months to view the facility’s hurricane evacuation plan. The Office of Refugee Resettlement eventually responded that it has a plan — but refused to let her see it.” A private company operates the facility, out of sight of the state child-welfare officials. Some children, who remained anonymous, spoke about the current situation at the facility and stated that it is “almost like being in a prison”, while telling an interviewer about instances where fellow children would try to run away because “we’ve been there for so long it feels like we are prisoners.”
Students at nearby schools wrote notes to the children who were being held inside the facility, while Miami-Date County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho offered to send willing teachers to educate the migrant kids, but both the notes as well as Carvalho’s offer were denied by the company operating the center. Many have now asked what it is they can do to help these children and their situations. People are urged to support legislation such as the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act, which would terminate any chance of a private company being able to run unlicensed temporary shelters for migrant children. Furthermore, advocates are hoping that people from around the world will donate to non-profit groups such as the Americans for Immigrant Justice law firm, which “ teaches children their rights, evaluates their cases, and tries to find lawyers for those who are released.” Michelle Ortiz, the deputy director of Americans for Immigrant Justice, recently stated that “We could use support to help get those kids out of adult detention.” Despite the current situation regarding children camps, advocates believe that change will come if more people come together to fight against these inhumane facilities. Will you play your part?