Homestead detention center may reopen to house minors

AL DIAZ/MIAMI HERALD/TNS – Children are seen at the Homestead shelter for migrant children in Homestead on June 23, 2018.

BY MONIQUE O. MADAN
MIAMI HERALD/TNS

MIAMI – The Homestead detention center may be reopening in coming months if the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border rises, two federal sources with the Department of Homeland Security told the Miami Herald on Monday. 

“There have been several ongoing conversations” between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement about its reopening, one federal source told the Herald.

“Again, it’s an emergency influx center, so it’s expected. Once the number of kids hits the threshold, they put the shelter to go active within the next 30 days.” 

Dip in arrivals 

According to statistics released by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol last week, the number of people crossing the southern border in December dropped only slightly from November. 

Of those arriving in December, around 8,600 migrants were traveling as families, and 3,250 were unaccompanied children, both down slightly from the previous month. CBP says arrests at the border typically decline in the winter and rise again in the spring during warmer temperatures.

HHS and ORR will not disclose how many unaccompanied minors would have to be detained at the border in order for Homestead to be activated. 

Contract ended 

If the center does reopen, it’s still unclear what company would operate it since Caliburn International’s contract ended Nov. 30. 

Caliburn — which was awarded the contract without competition around the same time President Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, joined the company’s board of advisers — managed the facility for unaccompanied migrant children ages 13 to 17 since 2018.

If the facility does reopen, a new contract would have to be solicited.

“Who gets the contract will be a mystery. Caliburn could be awarded again or it could be someone completely new,” the source added. 

Largest center 

Another source with the Department of Homeland Security — the law enforcement agency contracted secure the premises — told the Herald that the government is considering “restructuring” the facility. 

“There are talks about not using tents next time, just hard structures,” the federal official told the Herald. “Though none of the kids actually resided or slept in the tent portion of the property, they are still considering using hard structure for all the support buildings.” 

Homestead was the largest forprofit, influx detention center for unaccompanied minor children in the country, with 3,200 beds at its peak.

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