HOMESTEAD, Florida – Two members of Congress from Florida were barred on Tuesday from entering a shelter in Homestead, holding undocumented minors detained on the US-Mexico border.
Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, both Democrats, told the press outside the refuge that high-level officials of the US Department of Health and Human Services would not allow them to enter the facility this Tuesday.
The two federal lawmakers, who were joined by Florida state Rep. Kionne L. McGhee, dismissed the reasons offered by the HHS and said it was a sign they were “hiding” something about the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, which is thought to be holding as many as 1,000 minors.
“The company running this facility told us we would be welcomed to tour the facility,” Nelson tweeted after he and his colleagues were turned away. “HHS then denied us entry and said that they need ‘two weeks’ notice’ to allow us inside. That’s ridiculous and it’s clear this administration is hiding something.”
Wasserman Schultz regretted that not even they as members of Congress had any idea about the number children currently being held at this shelter, opened for the first time in June 2016, nor what the state of their health might be, among other concerns.
She said they lack any kind of information confirmed by federal authorities and that all they know, thanks to activists, is that the center reopened several months ago and that at present it holds minors who came unaccompanied to the US, and, to a lesser degree, children who have been separated from their parents by the Trump administration.
The Justice Department announced six weeks ago the application of a “zero tolerance” policy, which signifies treating undocumented immigrants like criminals and supposedly justifies taking away their children and sending them to shelters.
This policy, which has led to the separation of some 2,000 minors from their parents, has sparked a wave of indignation, even among some of Trump’s Republican colleagues.