Harris, Gillibrand speak outside Homestead facility for migrant children

'This is not how you treat children,' Gillibrand says

By Parker Branton - Reporter, Glenna Milberg - Reporter

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Democratic candidates for president were still in South Florida Friday after the two-night debate wrapped up. On Friday, some of them, along with other local leaders, spoke outside the facility in Homestead that houses migrant children who crossed the border unaccompanied. 

Many of the Democrats demanded the migrant children be freed from the shelter.

"First of all, at the border, we should not be separating from family members. There's no reason for the delay in review of those family members," Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who was the only one allowed to tour the facility Friday, said. 

Levine cava recounted seeing about 100 of the almost 2,500 at the shelter well-fed, in classes, and in physical education activities, and generally well-cared for. She probed about the fragile mental and emotional health of young people apart from their families in an uncertain immigration journey.

"It's not about the physical condition. It's about the spirit -- about these children's ability to resume some semblance of a normal life," she said. "Detention is not a humane alternative."

The presidential hopefuls, meanwhile, have pounded the pavement this week to also proclaim their disagreement with the Trump administration. 

"I think public pressure is always very important and I've seen the president change his stance from one day to the next," U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell said. 

U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Kirstin Gillibrand talked one on one with the mother of a 17-year-old boy who is being held at the facility and is begging to be reunited with him.

"What has happened is wrong. It's not good and we are going to fight against it," Harris told the woman through a translator.  

Amid the Democrats debating and campaigning in South Florida over the last several days, Trump tweeted: "All Democrats raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American citizens first?"

The immigration battle between Republicans and Democrats is ongoing as candidates continue to fight for 2020. 

"This is not how you treat children. I'm a mother of two boys," Gillibrand said. 

"I strongly believe that you should judge a society based on how it treats its children," Harris said. "They are children and we are not treating them well at all."

The government facility, which is contracted out to for-profit Caliburn International, has become a local focus for those angry and/or disgusted by current immigration dysfunction and failures. 

Caliburn's CEO sent a letter to a dozen senators, calling critics politically-motivated.

"Over 4,000 dedicated, bilingual Caliburn employees care for these children and strive to swiftly unite each child with a vetted sponsor, approved by ORR. Currently, we most often meet that goal in around 35 days," the letter read in part. 
 

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