The largest shelter for immigrant children in the country, which has been compared to a prison, is shutting down, the Trump administration said Monday.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, it will not renew its contract with Caliburn International for its for-profit Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in South Florida when it expires on Nov. 30.
The shelter, which was started by the Obama administration to house the influx of children and teens entering the country without a parent or guardian and was reopened by the Trump administration in 2018, will be put in “warm status,” meaning that it could later reopen.
“In our ongoing efforts to ensure fiscal prudence, following a sustained decrease in referrals, HHS operations at the Homestead Temporary Influx facility will be transitioned into warm status effective immediately,” the agency said in a statement to The Hill.
At Homestead, the only for-profit facility for migrant youth in the U.S., the cost of holding children and teens is three times that at nonprofit shelters. VICE reports that it costs about $750 per night per child to run. According to HHS, 14,300 children were housed at the Homestead detention center from March 2018 until August. While Homestead stopped taking in unaccompanied minors in July and no longer had children at its facility by August, the government has still been paying $720,000 a day to keep it running.
The thousands of children who were housed at the facility have been moved to sponsors or state-licensed facilities that are part of a system of federally funded shelters across the nation.
Many have criticized the shelter for operating like a prison. Youth faced harsh rules, like five-minute limits on showers and 10-minute caps on phone calls. Some teens alleged that they were neglected and mistreated, with multiple complaints about being given pills to treat physical and psychological problems but not being informed what the medication was or what it was for.
Additionally, while the shelter was intended to house youth for a few days, several children were detained for months and at least six of them were there for more than a year.
Democratic presidential candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar as well as former Rep. Beto O’Rourke have all visited and criticized the shelter.