Protesters outside South Florida detention center for kids want it closed

Homestead, Fla. — Clutching signs and umbrellas against a drenching downpour, scores of people protested Sunday outside a South Florida facility that has become the nation’s biggest location for detaining immigrant children. A coalition of religious groups and immigrant advocates said they want the Homestead detention center closed.

Protesters held signs that read “Homes Instead!” and “Stop Separating Families” as they beat drums and sang civil rights-era protest songs.

“Shut it down! Shut it down!” protesters shouted.

Lucy Duncan, an official with the American Friends Service Committee, asked protesters for a moment of silence to remember children who have died in federal custody, though not at the Homestead facility. She poured water into a potted plant as each of the seven names was read.

“It’s a moral outrage,” Duncan said. “We need for justice to break through. We need to remember those names.”

Organizer Kristin Kumpf said 800 people from 22 states had RSVP’d for the protest being held on Father’s Day.

The organization has been regularly posting on its Twitter account images from the scene Sunday:

Immigrant advocates have filed legal documents trying to force President Trump’s administration to quickly release immigrant children from the Florida detention center, which officials said in April could house up to 3,200 migrant teens.

The advocates accuse the administration of violating a decades-old settlement that they say requires immigrant children to be promptly released to relatives or other sponsors, or sent to child care facilities.

Children seen at the Homestead, Florida, facility in a screenshot of video provided by DHSS. Department of Health and Human Services

CBS News has previously reported about the sadness, confusion, anxiety and fear children have described at the Homestead facility, as laid out in dozens of testimonials filed by attorneys May 31 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, as part of a more than 600-page motion. They argue that the Homestead facility is failing to comply with the Flores Agreement, a landmark settlement that set rules for how the federal government must care for unaccompanied migrant children.

The attorneys interviewed children in Homestead in November 2018 and March 2019. They say they are detained for too long, “are harmed by lengthy detention at Homestead,” and are subject to “prison-like” rules. The attorneys and children say they fear that breaking simple rules — length of shower, hugging or touching even their own siblings, not finishing meals — might hurt their chances at being released to their families.

The attorneys have demanded that children at Homestead be transferred to other, licensed facilities, or rapidly be placed with sponsor families. The nation’s more than 160 licensed shelters for unaccompanied children are subject to inspections by state child welfare authorities. Homestead is not licensed by Florida authorities for child care because it is on federal land, and is not subject to state inspections.

The Flores Agreement requires that children be placed in a licensed facility “as expeditiously as possible” and that officials make “prompt and continuous efforts” to release them to family members.

img-24541.jpg Teenagers are seen at the nation’s largest holding facility for unaccompanied migrant children, a temporary influx shelter operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in Homestead, Florida, on Feb. 27, 2019. Graham Kates/CBS News

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