The secretary of Health and Human Services has spoken out against criticism of a detention facility for migrant children in Homestead, Florida, because the first images are popping up from the inside.
& # 39; Many factual misrepresentations or simply ignorant statements have been made about Homestead and frankly, the broader program we run at HHS, & # 39; told HHS Secretary Alex Azar. CBS News.
The Homestead facility has been the site this week of a stream of presidential candidates for democrat, as well as ongoing protests demanding that it be closed.
Now CBS is allowed to film within the facility, where about 2,500 migrant children are staying who have crossed the border illegally, most of them traveling unaccompanied.
Migrant children are seen in the controversial HHS plant in Homestead. Most are from Central America and crossed the border illegally and unaccompanied
Migrant children can enjoy a meal in the facility's cafeteria
The children even receive lessons in the classrooms of the facility
The photos allow the children to walk around in orderly rows, eat healthy cafeteria meals, and attend classes in crowded and noisy classrooms.
The footage shows the large dormitories where the children sleep in bunk beds, which Azar says the children prefer smaller rooms. CBS News was not allowed to interview any of the children due to privacy issues.
Azar says the facility, run by a contractor for the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, has been confused in people's minds with detention facilities at Customs and Border Protection.
CBP can only hold children for 72 hours, after which HHS takes them into custody.
CBP processing facilities, overwhelmed by a huge wave of illegal border crossings, have come under criticism for poor conditions, although Congress has received an emergency aid of $ 4.6 billion in funds to spend on migrants this week.
There are currently 13,500 minors in HHS care, and usually they can only be kept for 25 days in facilities such as Homestead.
& # 39; There have been many factual misrepresentations or simply ignorant statements about Homestead and frankly, the broader program we run at HHS & # 39 ;, said Secretary Alex Azar.
General view of a facility with migrant children in Homestead. The controversial center for profit preservation employs around 2,300 children between the ages of 13 and 17
The teenagers in the Homestead facility are mostly from Central America.
Although many have traveled to the United States without relatives, they have described the devastation that they were taken away from aunts, uncles or older siblings before they were detained at the Department of Health and Human Services, according to court records.
In recent days, many of the Democratic presidential candidates have visited the Homestead facility before or after the debates in nearby Miami. None of the candidates is admitted to the Homestead facility.
During his visit, Beto O & # 39; Rourke stood on a ladder to peer over the fence and shouted & # 39; we love you & # 39; in Spanish against the children inside.
O & # 39; Rourke said the Florida facility looked like & # 39; a military prisoner of war camp & # 39 ;.
On Friday, spiritual guru Marianne Williamson took selfies with demonstrators in Homestead and stood on a ladder to hold a heart sign and waved to the children who were being held behind the fence.
Beto O & # 39; Rourke held up a heart-shaped sign and shouted & # 39; we love you & # 39; in Spanish when he visited the Homestead facility this week. He compared it to & # 39; a military prisoner of war camp & # 39;
& # 39; What is being done to these children is a violation of human rights by the United States & # 39 ;, said Senator Kamala Harris during her visit
Spiritual guru Marianne Williamson (on the ladder) said she believes the Trump government is holding the children in the facility to & # 39; the power of fear & # 39; to use
& # 39; These children have been detained, in particular to harness the power of fear and the mean political goals of the Trump government, & # 39; she said.
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders said that children fleeing their homeland to try to save their lives and have a chance of human freedom and dignity & # 39; must be released for family members in the US.
& # 39; What is being done to these children is a violation of human rights by the United States & # 39 ;, said Senator Kamala Harris during her visit.
Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren, claimed that children in Homestead are being locked up here for weeks, months, because our government is following a policy of inflicting maximum pain on families fleeing here to build a better life. & # 39;
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar came by on Wednesday afternoon, and California Rep. Eric Swalwell visited on Monday. Six others, including South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, announced Friday visits.
Republicans accused the Democratic candidates of trying to score cheap political points with the pilgrimages to Homestead, saying they should focus on finding solutions to problems with the nation's immigration system.
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