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Detention Center Makes $750 Per Child Every Day For 'Prison-Like' Conditions

Over the past few years, issues of immigration, border security and the well-being of migrant children have become growing matters of concern for the American public as children spend extended periods in detention centers and the conditions of life in those centers come into question.

Compounding the problem was the 2018 Trump administration policy issued by then-attorney general Jeff Sessions to separate migrant children from their families.

Although that practice was ended by one of President Trump's executive orders in July of that year, the effects of enacting it are still clear at the remaining detention center in Florida.

This facility in Homestead, Florida is known as the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children.

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As Reuters reported, it is the only such facility in existence and is supposed to hold children until they can be either released to family members or moved to more permanent shelters.

It currently holds approximately 1,600 children, but according to AP News, the government plans to expand it to hold 2,350 children.

Although the center's program coordinator, Bernadine Leslie Wood, described the experience as like "a slumber party," that doesn't jibe with what children have reported.

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According to Reuters, younger children are housed in rooms with six bunk beds each while 17-years-olds are kept in a large room where 144 of them sleep together.

The Miami Herald reported that this large room also hosts noisy fans. Wood said that the teens here had the opportunity to ask for earplugs and didn't, whereas every child interviewed said this wasn't the case.

The daily life that children have in this facility was observed by Democrat Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

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She described it as "prison-like" to AP News, while pediatrician Dr. Marsha R. Griffin referred to it as a site of child abuse and neglect.

The Miami Herald reported that the children always travel in single-file lines with counselors in red hats, are allowed five minutes to shower, 15 minutes for meals, and cannot take bathroom or water breaks without permission.

They are allowed two 10-minute phones calls with family members a week with no exceptions regardless of birthdays or other special occasions.

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The Miami Herald went on to report that children are not allowed to hug or even touch each other and can't lend each other clothes.

As one teenager put it, "Sometimes when your friend is crying because they can’t stand being here any longer, you want to be able to give them a hug. But you can’t because it’s against the rules...There are cameras here watching us."

As attorney Neha Desai revealed, self-harm is common among these children.

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One particular case involved a 14-year-old from Honduras who was separated from her aunt upon arrival in the States.

Children have had their pens and pencils taken away due to self-harm concerns, but Reuters reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also reduced the ratio of mental health professionals assisting detainees from one for every 12 children to one for every 20 children.

The facility also sits on federal property, which means it can operate unlicensed, employees do not have to be screened for abuse and neglect, and it is not governed by state child welfare regulations.

There's also a discrepancy between who is supposed to be detained there and who actually is.

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Although it is supposed to house only teenagers who arrived unaccompanied, court documents obtained by The Miami Herald contain reports of preteen children and children who were separated from their parents or other family members at the border.

As Desai said, "These children are battling a sense of deep helplessness and sheer frustration and confusion on why they don’t know anything or on why they are still detained."

Although the 1997 Flores agreement holds that children can only be detained for 20 days, the Department of Health and Human Services said the facility can get around this because it's an emergency and temporary influx center.

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Although an HHS representative said they're working to get the kids released to an appropriate sponsor, the government has delayed this process by requiring biometric and biological data like fingerprints — which are then shared to all levels of law enforcement —and checks on the sponsors' immigration status and criminal history.

Although most of the children detained have willing sponsors waiting for them, some have been waiting as many as three months for their cases to be processed.

It's also worth noting that the facility is the only shelter for migrant children run by a for-profit company.

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Reuters reported that this company, Comprehensive Health Services, is owned by Caliburn International Corp, who reported "significant growth" in their business as a result of President Trump's immigration policies.

Although it typically takes about $250 per day to house a child at a permanent shelter, Comprehensive Health Services is able to charge taxpayers $750 a day per child to house children in the conditions described above.

The question is, where is that extra money going?

h/t: Reuters, AP News, The Miami Herald