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Warren at Homestead detention facility: Trump locking people up for ‘political ends’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, appearing on Wednesday near a facility in Florida that houses migrant children, said the treatment of the children there is a “stain” on the United States and that President Trump is locking people up for political reasons.

Ahead of her appearance at the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Miami, Ms. Warren said the Homestead facility should be shut down.

Speaking with the aid of a bullhorn, Ms. Warren said: “What is happening at Homestead to children – what is happening [as] the direct result of activities of the United States government – is wrong. It is a stain on our country. And we must speak out.”

“We will stay here at Homestead until this facility releases these children and closes down,” she said to some cheers and applause from activists that segued into chants of “shut it down!”

“We start by saying that we do not lock people up for money,” she said. “We follow up by saying we do not lock people up for political ends, which is what the president of the United States is doing here. This is wrong.”

As of June 16, there were about 2,450 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) between the ages of 13-17 living at the facility, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Immigrant rights advocates have decried reportedly harsh conditions at the facility. They also argue that such facilities are in violation of the 1997 Flores settlement agreement that imposed conditions on the types of facilities UAC can be held in. Homestead is not state-licensed, but the federal Health Department, which has contracted with Caliburn International to operate the facility, says it’s a “temporary influx” facility that isn’t bound by the licensing rules.

Juveniles at Homestead usually arrived at the border without parents. In some rare cases they may have been taken away from parents for safety reasons.

Under the law, children in those cases are supposed to be transferred from Homeland Security to the Health Department within 72 hours, and health officials then hold them in contracted dormitories until sponsors can be found to foster them, or they can be turned over to family already in the U.S. — usually illegal immigrants themselves.

Ms. Warren on Wednesday complained of “the private incarceration of our children in facilities like this.”

She has a plan to try to end private prisons and immigrant detention facilities in the U.S.

“And part of the reason is because this is wrong – we should not be doing this,” she said. “And part of the reason is we do not need for-profit companies that then come in and lobby Washington to keep our broken immigration system functioning as it is because they make bigger and bigger profits.”

She said she hopes the issue comes up in the debate in Miami Wednesday evening.

“I’m glad to have a chance to talk about what I’ve seen here today, to talk about the proposal that I’ve already put out to shut down places like these,” she said.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, another 2020 contender, visited Homestead earlier this week, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke was planning to go there on Thursday.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who like Ms. Warren and Mr. O’Rourke is on the debate stage Wednesday evening, plans to go to the facility Wednesday afternoon, according to her campaign.

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Florida Democrat, has invited the 2020 candidates to go with her to the facility on Friday. She said on Wednesday that South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Obama administration official Julián Castro, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris, and self-help guru Marianne Williamson were planning to head there on Friday.

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