Mucarsel-Powell Obtains Disturbing Information On Sexual Abuse Allegations And Unsafe Conditions At Homestead Detention Facility And Renews Calls For Closure
U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), member of the Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee, Chair of the Women's Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the first South American-born member of Congress, announced her office received responses to a letter she sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) over a year ago regarding the Homestead detention facility. The administration's responses demonstrate the unsafe conditions minors were subjected to at the facility. The responses confirm that employees were not vetted for child abuse or neglect backgrounds, and that four sexual abuse allegations were made against the facility's staff, three of which resulted in the termination or resignation of the employees. A copy of the responses can be found here.
In light of this news, Mucarsel-Powell is calling for the facility to be permanently shut down, as it currently remains in "warm" status. She is also expressing the need for greater oversight of facilities across the nation.
"The administration made the dangerous and reckless decision to not vet the employees working at this facility for child abuse and risked the lives of countless children," said Mucarsel-Powell. "This facility must shutdown permanently, with the commitment that no other children will be detained in these inhumane conditions. Trump's shameful family separation policies have caused extraordinary pain to children and our community and they continue to be opposed across the country."
Additionally, ORR has agreed to change the name of the facility to the Biscayne Influx Care Facility. This is the direct result of Mucarsel-Powell's advocacy, including to the director of ORR during a Judiciary hearing on family separation. Local leaders from Homestead sent multiple requests to ORR about the need to change the name of the facility. The Congresswoman added, "the original name unfairly portrayed Homestead in a negative fashion that did not reflect the values held by our community or residents."
Mucarsel-Powell has acted as a watchdog of this facility since before she even took office, and has led multiple oversight visits to the facility, including one with the presidential candidates at the time and another with members of the Hispanic Caucus.
On July 5, 2019, Mucarsel-Powell sent a letter to ORR detailing her concerns about the Homestead Temporary Shelter and requesting responses to over 50 different inquiries relating to the conditions and processes at the facility.
On May 15, 2020, nearly one year after her original letter, ORR responded to Mucarsel-Powell's letter. ORR's responses were evasive and incomplete, yet still manage to present an environment with allegations of staff-on-child sexual abuse and where staff members are not vetted for prior child abuse records.
After input from the local community, Mucarsel-Powell publicly pressed the Office of Refugee Resettlement to rename the Homestead Temporary Influx Shelter at a hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee on July 25, 2019. A video of Mucarsel-Powell's comments can be found here.