Multiple Democratic presidential candidates flocked to the town of Homestead, Florida, this week to attempt to see the conditions of a migrant detention facility where over 2,000 children are being held.
All who tried were denied entry into the facility, but the high fencing, temporary structures, and single-file lines of children observable for outside the grounds were enough for all the candidates to call out the privately owned facility as being a prison for kids.
“It’s hot, it’s barren, there’s this completely enclosed fence like you’d see at a minimum-security prison,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said after visiting the facility. “Children were marched out of [structures] from one to another in single-file lines.”
The Massachusetts senator said the children mostly kept their heads down and had a somber appearance.
“That’s not what kids are supposed to look like, that’s not how kids are supposed to act,” she said. “These are children who are prisoners.
“Our immigration system should be about keeping us safe and about reflecting our values,” Warren added. “An immigration system that can’t tell the difference between a terrorist, a criminal, and a little girl is not an immigration system that is keeping us safe.”
Watch the video below:
Homestead is hot and barren, with a completely enclosed fence. I saw children being marched from one building to another in single file lines. No laughing, no playing. These are children who are prisoners. pic.twitter.com/7WB4G8sI5n
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 26, 2019
The facility is located about 30 miles from Miami, where the first round of Democratic debates is being held this week. According to the New York Times, the facility opened in February after the Trump administration shut down the heavily photographed and criticized tent city in Tornillo, Texas. The Homestead detection facility costs $1 million a day to operate.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) visited the facility on Thursday and spoke to activists who have heard about the conditions inside the place, including a policy that punishes any children who have physical contact with each other even if they’re siblings.
“The one human contact that you crave the most with a family member is denied to you,” O’Rourke said in a livestream following his visit, “and you’re being punished for just being a human being.”
Just left Homestead. Here’s what I learned: https://t.co/EIB5GR7uWG
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) June 27, 2019
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also visited the facility Thursday.
“This is not what America is about,” Sanders said, addressing the crowd of media and activists. He added that the kids in the facilities came to America to “save their lives and have a shot at human freedom and dignity.”
Watch the video below:
We should not be imprisoning children who have committed the “crime” of walking a thousand or more miles in order to try to save their lives and have a shot at freedom and dignity. pic.twitter.com/iPrmgIxjzS
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 27, 2019
Every candidate who visited the facility criticized the fact that the detention center is owned by a private company and that it is bringing in revenue from the federal government. The facility is operated by Comprehensive Health Services, owned by Caliburn International. Caliburn International recently hired former Trump White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also visited the facility this week. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and author Marianne Williamson are expected to make an appearance by the end of the week.