Wilson-led delegation tours Homestead migrant facility

Shalala, other Democratic House members visit facility

By Glenna Milberg - Reporter, Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - A congressional delegation led by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., toured the nation's largest child migrant detention center in Homestead.

Wilson was joined by U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., and several Democratic House members Tuesday as they got a firsthand look at the conditions under which the young migrants are living.

The Democratic presidential candidates who were in Miami for last week's debates had also ventured to the Homestead facility.

After their tour, Wilson and her colleagues had less to say about what they saw inside the facility and more about what they want, which is to get the facility closed down.

"While these children seem to be looked after in a clean environment, their physical appearance is not always a gauge for mental health," Wilson said.

Joining Wilson on the tour were U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security; U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.; U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., co-chair of the Democratic Women's Caucus; U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., co-chair of the Black Women & Girls Caucus; U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn.; and U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., vice chair of the Bipartisan Women's Caucus. 

"What I didn't see is what bothers me the most," Thompson said.

The distrust is clear. None of the Democrats spoke about the level of care they were shown, but all spoke about the de facto house arrest of mostly Central American children in traumatic circumstances.

"I talked to maybe 20 kids in there. All of them have relatives here in the United States. They need to be moved immediately to those relatives," Shalala said.  

The group of Democrats split votes for the humanitarian aid bill President Donald Trump signed Monday after months of partisan wrangling. 

More than $1 billion will go to shelter and feed migrants and nearly $3 billion will go to care for unaccompanied minors like those brought to Homestead. There will also be a 90-day limit to hold children in custody.

"The other week, they brought 350 children in at a time. We never see them leaving. We only see them coming," protester Tina Marie Davidson said outside the Homestead facility. 

It's important to note that children do leave the shelter. Some days, dozens leave and other days, hundreds leave. They are taken by van and/or plane to be reunited with parents or vetted sponsors. 

Officials said the average stay in the shelter is about a month.

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