Last Remaining For-Profit Migrant Children Shelter to Be Shut Down Next Month

Eduardo, a three-year-old boy from Honduras, looks at his father after migrants illegally crossed into the U.S. from Mexico in Penitas, Texas, November 7, 2018. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

The nation’s only for-profit detention center for migrant children will shut its doors at the end of November when its contract ends, the Trump administration said Monday.

The private military contractor, Caliburn International, which runs Homestead Shelter about 30 miles south of Miami, Florida, will not have its contract renewed after it runs out on November 30. Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services will put the facility on “warm status,” meaning it will remain ready to be reopened if necessary.

“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,” HHS said in a statement. “HHS will retain site access to ensure continuity of operations. However, current bed capacity will be reduced to zero. Staff at the facility will be released over the course of the next 5 to 7 days.”

The shelter, which was vacated on August 3 amid controversy over its for-profit status, is meant to hold migrant children for short-term stays of a few days only, but has ended up housing many minors for weeks or longer due to backlogs in the asylum adjudication process.

Democratic presidential candidates put Homestead in the spotlight when they visited it in June amid a flurry of activity by media and immigration advocates. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders, as well as former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke all made the trip to the detention center.

“Corporations should not be making money by imprisoning children,” Senator Bernie Sanders told reporters outside the center.

The contractor has also caught flack for having former White House chief of staff John Kelly on its board of directors.

The detention facility has housed over 14,000 migrant children from March of last year to August of this year, when HHS slashed the center’s bed capacity from 2,700 beds to 1,200. The facility also held 8,500 children during an uptick in border crossings from June, 2016 to April, 2017.

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