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Empty prison camp for migrant kids could reopen later this year, report says

Migrant children who have been separated from their families can be seen in tents at a detention center in Homestead, Florida on June 27, 2019. - Public outcry over Trump's handling of the border crisis has increased dramatically after a migrant rights group revealed alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas, where children were deprived of showers and clean clothes for weeks. (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump administration officials continue to threaten float the possibility that the prison camp for migrant children in Florida could be reopened later in the year if the number of migrant children arriving at the southern border increases, the Miami Herald reports. Officials from Health and Human Services have reportedly had conversations about reopening the facility if “the number of kids hits the threshold,” a source within the government told the papersaying that officials could get it running within a month of that. 

But it shouldn’t be running at all, period. The privately operated Homestead facility was closed in part from public pressure following reports of abusive conditions inside, including kids forbidden from even writing in a journal, and others given threats of prolonged imprisonment for rule-breaking. When House Democrats tried to enter the facility to conduct their oversight responsibilities last April, they were illegally blocked from entering even though law sponsored by one of those legislators mandated congressional access.

The prison camp has been empty since August, when all jailed children were either released to family in the U.S., sponsors, or moved to a smaller facility. But even at that time, officials said that facility would be placed into “warm status,” meaning it could be opened at the discretion of the government. “If the center does reopen, it’s still unclear what company would operate it since Caliburn International’s contract ended on Nov. 30,” Miami Herald continued. Sitting on the board of Caliburn, as a reminder, is John Kelly, the former Homeland Security secretary and chief of staff for impeached president Donald Trump.

Advocates note that after the unprecedented deaths of migrant children in U.S. custody, the administration should be prioritizing how to prevent further tragedy, not planning how to jail more kids. While officials released a health screening plan last month, leading medical professionals condemned it as “incredibly frustrating,” “bare bones,” and “beyond disappointing.”

The administration, Families Belong Together chair Jess Morales Rocketto said in a statement received by Daily Kos, is prioritizing detention over saving lives.“Six children have died in this administration’s detention camps. A seventh died shortly after being released from her jail cell. We should be closing them permanently and preventing private companies, some of which have ties to the Trump administration, from profiting off of the jailing and trauma of families,” she said. “Children deserve to be loved. They should be treated with dignity, compassion and respect. We must keep this camp closed and work tirelessly to close all the others so no more children die under the Trump administration’s watch.”  

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