What to Know
- Sen. Bill Nelson will meet with federal officials and get a firsthand look at the shelter, one of three centers in South Florida.
- The federal government spends tens of millions of dollars a year to accommodate up to 1,200 unaccompanied minors in Miami-Dade.
One of Florida's U.S. Senators was among a group of lawmakers that were denied entry Tuesday to a Homestead facility housing some of the nearly 2,000 children that have been separated from their families since the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy on undocumented immigration.
Sen. Bill Nelson was expecting to meet with federal officials and get a firsthand look at the shelter, one of three centers for undocumented children in South Florida, but said he and a group that included Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz were denied entry.
"They are now embarrassed and don't want us to check on the comfort and welfare of these children," Nelson told reporters outside the facility. "This is absolutely ridiculous, I am ashamed that the administration is doing this."
The Democratic lawmakers showed up to see the conditions of the children inside and to see how many were separated from their families at the border. Wasserman Schultz said they were told they could enter earlier in the day by the company contracted to run the facility.
"They are trying to cover up and not let the American public see what's really going on here. Are they abusing these kids? Are they sleeping on the floor? Are they in cages like we've seen when video has been shot?" Wasserman Schultz said. "This is an absolute outrage and we will continue to pressure them and press for this until we are allowed into this and other facilities across the country."
Nelson, who is seeking re-election this November, has been an outspoken critic of the President's decision to separate families and filed legislation to prohibit Homeland Security officials from continuing the policy.
Nora Sandigo, whose nonprofit organization is trying to help at least 70 of those children who ended up in South Florida in the past couple months, said some of the kids are babies.
"It is cruel, it is inhumane and it is evil," Sandigo said. "They are alone, they are suffering so much, they are crying cause they do not understand the laws of the country."
During a discussion on immigration Monday, Wasserman Schultz said there are hundreds of kids at the Homestead facility.
"I’m just learning that this Homestead facility has reopened and now has over a thousand kids," she said.
The federal government spends tens of millions of dollars a year to accommodate up to 1,200 unaccompanied minors in Miami-Dade and most of them are contracted to be at an emergency shelter in Homestead.
It's unknown if any of the recently separated children are at the facility. But the feds issued an emergency contract last month that doubled the capacity from 500 to 1,000.
"Why am I having to learn about this from immigration advocates? Because this is a secretive administration that knows that they are doing something immoral and wrong," Wasserman Schultz said.