Dozens of immigrant children in Homestead have yet to be reunited with families

Shelter beefs up staff to try to make July 26 reunification deadline

By Madeleine Wright - Reporter

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Several lawmakers got a tour of the temporary shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children in Homestead Friday after they were initially denied from seeing the shelter.

They said the children were in good physical condition, but are mostly concerned about the psychological condition of the kids.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, and Democratic Florida state Sens. Annette Taddeo and Jose Javier Rodriguez walked away from their tour of the shelter Friday with unanswered questions.

The politicians said they don't know how soon the children will be reunited with their parents.

"Most of the children from this facility were not separated from their families. They're unaccompanied minors that came to the United States -- showed up at the border without an adult," Curbelo said. 

Curbelo said about 100 children at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

He said 37 children from the shelter have been reunited with their parents, but dozens of others have not.

"The minors and the children that are here only have 20 minutes of phone contact with their parents a week," Rodriguez said. 

"I did witness one girl talking on the phone. She was wiping away tears and that was, for me, the moment where it was very difficult to watch," Taddeo said. 

The three lawmakers questioned why the facility missed the court-ordered deadline of July 10 to reunite the children with their families.

"We were told that some of the parents have been deported from the country and we have asked that instead of the minors or their children leaving with them, they be assigned to a relative in the United States. So those individuals have to be vetted to make sure they’re suitable to receive that child," Curbelo said. 

While the legal process continues, the community is stepping up.

Taddeo said people donated 700 toys and school supplies to the children, but staff members wouldn't accept them.

"I was told that they're not that kind of facility," Taddeo said. 

Taddeo said she was pleased that staff members later accepted the toys at Msgr. Bryan Walsh Children's Village.

The toys were collected during the March to Keep Families Together event on June 23. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now has until Thursday to reunify the kids who were separated from their parents at the southern border. 

Curbelo said the facility in Homestead has beefed up staff to make that reunification process go faster.

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