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2020 Dems say they will visit Homestead facility holding migrant children

Aaron Schwartz

Several Democratic presidential hopefuls have said they plan to visit a facility in Homestead, Fla., where migrant children are being held as the 2020 candidates prepare for the first primary debates in Miami this week.

Their visits to the facility come amid renewed scrutiny over the treatment of migrant children in the custody of the U.S. government after attorneys told The Associated Press about filthy, dangerous conditions in which children were being held at a border facility in Clint, Texas. 

{mosads}As of June 16, some 2,450 unaccompanied migrant children between the ages of 13 and 17 were being held at the Homestead facility, according to a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fact sheet.

Democratic candidates including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) and author Marianne Williamson said they would visit the facility this week.

Warren and Klobuchar are appearing in the presidential debate Wednesday night, while Swalwell and Williamson are in Thursday night’s event. 

Warren said she saw children being marched “like little soldiers” in single file with guards when she went to the migrant shelter on Wednesday.

“There weren’t children playing. There weren’t children laughing the way children usually do when they’re moving from one place to another. There were children who were being marched like little soldiers, like little prisoners,” she said.  

Spokesmen for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — who both are set to appear in the debate Thursday night — told The Hill in statements that they will also visit the facility on Friday morning. 

The Hill has reached out for comment to HHS’s Administration for Children and Families.

Tetiana Anderson, a spokeswoman for Caliburn International, which operates the Homestead center, told The Hill in a statement that visitors to the facility are welcome, but they first have to register with the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which can take up to 14 days. 

“The Homestead facility is fully transparent, allowing visitations from religious groups, congressional delegations, local government groups, consular officials and the media that have secured HHS ORR prior approval,” Anderson said. 

A group of House Democrats visited the facility in February and called it “chilling.”

Twenty of the more than two dozen candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination will face off in the debates on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

— Updated at 3:28 p.m.

Tags 2020 Democratic primary 2020 elections Amy Klobuchar Democratic debates Department of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Warren Eric Swalwell Florida Homestead Homestead facility Marianne Williamson Miami Pete Buttigieg

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