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Last Tuesday, Amnesty staff toured the Homestead Temporary Influx Care Facility in Florida and spoke with personnel working there.

After the closure of Tornillo in Texas, Homestead is the only temporary influx shelter for unaccompanied children in the U.S.
The U.S. also maintains permanent shelters for unaccompanied children. We visited two nearby, and interviewed some of the unaccompanied children as well as personnel and toured the facilities. All of these shelters are run by the Office for Refugee Resettlement.
Here are the first impressions of the Homestead Temporary Influx Care Facility from Amnesty International researcher Brian Griffey:
When we visited, there were nearly 2100 children housed at Homestead ages 13-17. Almost all are sent there directly from the border. Forty percent are Guatemalan, followed by Salvadoran, Honduran, and an array of small numbers of other nationalities.
Homestead personnel informed us that the capacity was 2142 but the plan was to expand the facility to 2350 children as soon as the facility could staff up.
However, later that same day, we learned that HHS had announced it would expand to 3200 children – the largest population ever for this facility.
Homestead is not a place for children.

The facility has a military discipline to the schedule and movements of children. They must wear ID badges with barcodes that are scanned whoever they go. Services and basic supplies are accessible only through various request forms.
If a child needs additional sanitary pads after a initial shelter intake processing, they have to submit a “service request form.” Need to see the doctor? Submit a “medical request form.” Want to see your lawyer? Submit a “legal request form.”
The phone for reporting sexual abuse is located in an open-air cubicle next to a ping pong table in a rec room.

What adult – let alone a child – would want to report sexual abuse when they are in an open-air cubicle with people five feet away playing ping pong?
Homestead is already over capacity, with inadequate premises and care. A majority of children have family sponsors waiting for them.

The children in Homestead should be in small-care settings, and released as soon as possible to their sponsors.
Artwork at Homestead covers hallways and classrooms. There is a persistent theme: American iconography, including Statues of Liberty, the U.S. Constitution, and one of Martin Luther King, with “I Have A Dream” written in Spanish.
The U.S. government should live up to these ideals and promises. Adequate care must be provided to every unaccompanied child seeking safety here.

Those with sponsors should be released immediately.
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