Child migrant detention centre in Florida closed after becoming flashpoint in US immigration debate

Facility was costing $720,000 (£560,000) a day to run, even when no one was staying there

Clark Mindock
New York
@ClarkMindock
Tuesday 29 October 2019 01:12
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A controversial migrant detention centre which had been accused of holding children in "prison like conditions", has been shut down by the Trump administration.

Heavily criticised because of its regimented conditions and the contractor’s ties to a freshly departed White House official, the facility in Homestead, Florida, had faced mounting criticism over its regimented conditions and status as a privately run facility.

A court filing earlier this year alleged the government was holding migrant children in “prison-like conditions” for months, allowing limited phone calls and ordering them to follow strict rules or face prolonged detention.

Now the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has said in a statement that its bed capacity had been reduced from 1,200 to zero.

The site had been vacated previously, but remained operational in case there was no room at shelters for teenage migrants who cross the US-Mexico border and end up in government custody.

The statement added that it would not renew a contract with private contractor, Comprehensive Health Services Inc when it expires on 30 November. Around 2,000 workers are to be let go in the coming days.

The decision had been taken, it said, to “ensure fiscal prudence”. Last month, Jonathan Hayes, the director of the department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, said the facility was costing $720,000 (£560,000) a day to run, even when no children were staying there.

Democratic presidential hopefuls turned the Miami-area facility into a campaign stop to protest their detention this summer, when about 2,500 teens were held there.

They attacked the administration for holding children in a cramped detention center run by a private company tied to the former White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders stood on top of short ladders beyond the fences and peering in at the children inside the grounds.

Homestead had been vacated of migrant children in August, after controversy that children were being held there for weeks or longer, due to backlogs in the asylum process. Children were originally only supposed ot be held there for a few days.

The facility came under increased scrutiny earlier this year as well after Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, John Kelly, was seen touring the facility in a golf cart, three days after he left his post in the White House.

Five days later, the owner of the contractor that runs the site - Comprehensive Health Services - was awarded a no-bid contract for $341m to increase bed capacity.

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