One monstrosity in the Texas desert has been shuttered even as another one along the Florida coastline is expanding. Following the closure and upcoming dismantlement of the prison camp for children in Tornillo, Texas, Trump administration officials say that another location in Homestead, Florida, will expand from 1,350 to 2,350 beds, making it the largest children’s detention facility in the nation.
“Like the tent city in Texas,” the New York Times reports, “the facility in Florida, adjacent to Homestead Air Reserve Base, is a ‘temporary’ or ‘influx’ shelter on federal land. Thus, it is not subject to state regulations and inspections intended to guarantee child welfare—only to a loose set of Health and Human Services guidelines.”
“Loose” is being generous. According to a government watchdog, former HHS official Scott Lloyd waived FBI background checks for Tornillo staff, which no doubt aided the facility’s eventual demise. When it comes to Homestead, “federal officials said the government was committed to providing excellent care for migrant youths at the facility, and said all staff members receive F.B.I. fingerprint background checks.”
As part of a long-standing court agreement, a legal team, including Holly Cooper of the University of California at Davis, will tour Homestead next month to assess conditions and treatment of the children, all of whom are unaccompanied minors, or children who came to the U.S. by themselves. “We have received multiple complaints about the facility,” she said, “and will make the investigation of the conditions in Homestead a top priority for the coming months.”
But children do not belong in detention, period. Under pressure, the administration released most of Tornillo’s children to sponsors. Homestead should likewise be getting smaller. “The Trump administration has not changed its fundamental strategy of deliberately hurting kids as part of its ongoing strategy of deterrence,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, adding that “it’s a shell game of moving kids from one facility to another.”