What are conditions like at the detention facility in Homestead, Florida?

By Brian Pascus

/ CBS News

Conditions at Homestead, Fla., detention center

Sen. Elizabeth Warren visited the nation's largest center for detaining immigrant children on Wednesday morning. Other candidates including Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris said they are planning to visit the center in Homestead, Florida.

Miami Herald reporter Monique O. Madan joined CBSN's "Local Matters" on Wednesday and gave an in-depth account of the conditions migrant children face at the South Florida detention center.

"You have people from all over the country coming down and camping out in front of the center," Madan told CBSN. "There have been dozens and dozens and hundreds of people that have come to say 'We don't want this.' We don't want what they are calling 'a prison for children in our own backyard.'"

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Homestead is not licensed by Florida authorities for child care because it is on federal land, and is not subject to state inspections. Madan told CBS the facility is run by a for-profit company that has overseen deplorable living conditions for the migrant children.

"What we have learned over the course of a month or two, detailed in court records over the last month, is that conditions inside—kid's are cutting themselves," Madan said. "They can't hug each other, they're crying themselves to sleep, they feel alone, they don't have the resources, they have two calls a week to their parents, if they answer the phone."

In recent months, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been warning that it is running out of bed space and funds to properly take care of migrant children. The agency is asking for $2.88 billion in emergency funding to increase capacity in children shelters.

A tragic image from the southern border revealed the grim reality facing many Central American migrants who make the dangerous journey. The photo shows a young father and his daughter who died trying to cross the Rio Grande in south Texas. They were found in shallow water, a few hundred yards from where they tried to cross. This follows outrage over U.S. officials returning more than 100 migrant children to a facility where they reportedly lived in inhumane conditions.

"It's a powerful image illustrating what's happening at the border and what people are going through," Madan told CBSN. "They're losing their lives to get here—if they do make it, they're separated from their children."

Madan added, "From what I was told earlier this morning at Homestead, it's either you die trying to get here or you're separated from your kids. Which one is worse?"

Tragic photo shows migrant father, child who died trying to cross the Rio Grande

Last week, President Trump announced immigration officials will be removing "millions" of illegal immigrants in raids throughout the country. Madan discussed the psychological effects the planned raids have had on South Florida communities.

"What we do know is people are trying to hide in their homes, trying to get in contact with attorneys, they're learning their rights," Madan said. "They're afraid. I've spoken to people to people who have sold their stuff, their cars because they're afraid. People are trying to figure out, 'OK, if I'm deported, what's going to happen to my children, my U.S. citizen children?'"

"That's the atmosphere here in South Florida: it's fear," she said. "There's a lot of fear."

First published on June 26, 2019 / 6:01 PM

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