An Empty Detention Center for Immigrant Children Is Costing Taxpayers $720,000 a Day

An Empty Detention Center for Immigrant Children Is Costing Taxpayers $720,000 a Day

At its peak, the Homestead detention center in Miami, Florida held about 3,000 kids inside its fences, making it the nation’s largest for-profit influx shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children. The site, technically a “temporary” shelter that nonetheless housed hundreds of children for months on end, became a symbol of the Trump administration’s failures to address the ongoing humanitarian emergency at the southern border. Visitors allowed to observe the facility reported that children were “crammed” into noisy tents and forbidden from listening to music or keeping a journal. Privacy was nonexistent. Some detainees, according to the New York Times, admitted to having suicidal thoughts.

Over the summer, federal authorities cleared the place out, relocating detainees to other shelters scattered across the country as South Florida entered hurricane season. The facility itself, however, remains open on a reduced-capacity basis, with about 1,200 available beds and a skeleton crew of support staff. And for the privilege of keeping Homestead’s doors open and its $600-a-night beds empty in this manner, American taxpayers are still paying about $720,000 every day.

This all according to Jonathan Hayes, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), during a congressional hearing on Wednesday. Under questioning from Wisconsin Democratic representative Mark Pocan, Hayes explained that the facility remains “fully active” to accommodate a hypothetical emergency influx of children requiring shelter, since it would need between 90 and 120 days to re-open if it were to shut all the way down. Officials have previously cautioned that they anticipate an increase in the number of referrals this fall. In the meantime, the government has spent some $33 million since early August for, as Pocan put it, 1,200 “invisible, imaginary, non-existent human beings” to not stay in Homestead anymore.

The hearing’s focus was on the mental health care—or lack thereof—that the government is providing to immigrant children in its custody. Earlier this month, investigators in the HHS Office of Inspector General reported on the government’s struggles to address the trauma experienced by young refugees fleeing violence in their home countries. Facilities required to maintain a 12:1 ratio of mental health clinicians to children suddenly reported ratios of 25:1 and above, and the fallout from the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy created an entirely new set of challenges for already-overworked counselors. From the report:

Source : Jay Willis Link

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