Indivisible group members from all over Florida have been traveling to join the vigil at the detention center in Homestead, Florida, where more than 2,000 immigrant children are confined. Those who cannot go to Homestead are contributing funds to support the vigil, which began earlier this year.
Witnesses from Indivisible and other activist groups hold up signs telling the children “We support you” and “you are not alone.” The children, ages 13 to 17, respond with blown kisses, waves and heart signs. Most of the children crossed the U.S. border unaccompanied; some were separated from relatives or neighbors with whom they traveled.
Members of Indivisible Clay County, Indivisible Flagler, Indivisible Action Southwest Florida and Lee OFA Indivisible have already traveled to Homestead, typically for two days, and members of other Indivisible groups, including Englewood Indivisible, are planning to go.
A group called Witness Homestead has been monitoring the facility for more than two months, maintaining a constant presence. There are only a few who are there daily and they manage the logistics. The GoFundMe is to support their work, which they’ve been financing on a shoestring.
The goal is to raise awareness and have a sustained presence, eventually closing Homestead.
Josh Rubin, the lead organizer of Witness Homestead, maintains the Facebook page Witness: Tornillo; Target: Homestead. Rubin was also the leader of protests at the Tornillo detention center in Texas, which the government closed last year.
To join the vigil: The detention center address is 989 Bougainville Blvd., Homestead, FL 33032. If you want help finding lodging or need a ride from the airport, fill out this form and someone from Witness Homestead will respond to you.
A private company, DCI Capital Partners, runs the Homestead facility under contract with the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS told National Public Radio that it pays DCI about $775 per child per day, three times as much as it pays at other shelters. When the population of the facility, formally known as Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, reaches its planned 3,200 in coming weeks, the cost to HHS will be $2.48 million per day.
Members of Congress have struggled against stonewalling by HHS and DCI to carry out their oversight responsibilities for the detention center. The Homestead facility sits on federal land so it is not required to meet Florida state standards or licensing. It is not inspected by state officials. And because it is deemed a “temporary” shelter, HHS says it does not have to comply with the Flores Settlement that limits federal detention of immigrant children to 20 days. The average length of stay is 52 days. Children who turn 18 are delivered in shackles to adult detention facilities.
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon told the New York Times that the expansion of Homestead shows that “the Trump administration has not changed its fundamental strategy of deliberately hurting kids as part of its ongoing strategy of deterrence.”
Civil rights and immigrant rights groups have protested the Trump administration’s mass detention of children.
See additional photos here.
Background information compiled by Nancy Terreri of Lee OFA Indivisible. Photos courtesy of Indivisible Clay County and Witness Tornillo: Target Homestead.