Five Democratic candidates for president—two of them sitting United States senators—were denied entry to the prison camp for migrant children in Homestead, Florida, on Friday, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell tweeted. “By law, as a sitting Congressmember, I should be let in,” she said. “While I regularly request entry, I’m often denied. What are they hiding?”
Mucarsel-Powell tweeted a photo showing herself, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris, and former Gov. John Hickenlooper inside a lobby, presumably being told they wouldn’t be able to enter. A longtime advocate for these jailed kids, Mucarsel-Powell had invited all candidates who were participating in the 2020 Democratic debates to visit the facility, which currently jails nearly 3,000 kids.
While Mucarsel-Powell and the candidates weren’t able to get inside, some of them did meet with advocates outside. “We came here today to get a look at a private detention facility for children, and instead of being shown this detention facility where 2,700 kids are staying, we were stonewalled,” Castro told reporters. “We were stonewalled today by an administration and a contractor that does not want us to see what is happening behind those walls, and it makes you wonder: What in the hell are they hiding?”
A facility that has done nothing wrong has nothing to hide, but Michael Garcia Bochenek of the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch said that “children held in Homestead … told us that staff repeatedly told them that breaking any rule, including something as minor as failing to walk in single file or accidentally touching another child, even a sibling, would mean more time locked up and could get them deported.”
The five weren’t the only candidates to be blocked from entering: Sen. Elizabeth Warren was blocked during her Wednesday visit, but said that she was able to peer through fencing and glance at children walking in a single-file line. “No laughing. No playing,” she said. “So I waved to the children. Some kept their heads down. Some looked our way and then quickly looked back down. Others waved but then put their hands down.”
A number of the candidates, who also included Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday, used step stools to peer over the fencing. However, Buttigieg reportedly infuriated local advocates when he left without also trying to look over the fencing. “’I’m very disappointed,’ said Alessandra Mondolfi, an activist who had screamed into Buttigieg’s black SUV, after Buttigieg left. ‘Because this is about them. This isn’t a press conference. This is about them.’”
”This is about children,” Gillibrand told reporters. “I cannot tell you how angry it makes me when you lock up a child, and deny the time they need to play outside,” referencing the Trump administration horrifically slashing recreation time. “I have toured [Health and Human Services] facilities before, in Texas. I know what it looks like: It’s like a prison. The beds are lined just like you’d see in a prison. No personal effects. Nothing like home. No comfort.”
This is about children, and they need our help. A coalition of organizations, including Daily Kos, has announced nationwide protests next week, on Tuesday, July 2, to demand the humane treatment of migrant children, and the closure of child prisons. Click here, or see below, for more information on how and where to sign up to participate.
ANNOUNCEMENT: There will be nationwide protests on Tuesday, July 2 demanding the closure of the inhumane immigrant detention centers subjecting children and families to horrific conditions.
— MoveOn (@MoveOn) June 28, 2019