Homestead center operating as emergency shelter for migrant children

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – A South Florida facility is housing migrant children as the controversy rages on over the government's "zero tolerance" immigration policy that forces the separation of children from their families.

Property near the Homestead Air Reserve Base is heavily guarded as it has been reactivated as an emergency shelter for migrant children stopped at the southern border.

About a thousand children are at the Homestead center, with Local 10 learning the newest arrivals were flown in just last week. Administrators at the Department of Health and Human Services refuse to say whether the children crossed the border as unaccompanied minors or were separated from family members, or both.

Local 10 was able to see dozens of workers heading in and out of the facility while wearing shirts that say Comprehensive Health Services. The Central Florida-based company is contracted to provide physical and mental health services to sheltered young migrants.

On May 4, a government order requested 500 more beds for the Homestead facility. The order was placed one month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the "zero tolerance" policy in which people crossing the border illegally are detained instead of possibly being released during the immigration process.

Children and adults are placed in separate facilities, which has created the burgeoning consequences of dividing families.

The Department of Health and Human Services operates two shelters in Miami-Dade County. The center in Homestead is a temporary emergency shelter that can only accommodate 1,000 people.

The Homestead facility was opened two years ago to house unaccompanied minors fleeing gangs and violence in Central America. Before that, the center house children rescued after an earthquake devastated Haiti.

About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."