Trump officials say nation’s largest facility for housing migrant children now empty

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Saturday that the nation’s largest facility for housing unaccompanied migrant children in Homestead, Fla., is officially empty.

HHS said in a statement that “all UAC [unaccompanied alien children] sheltered in the Homestead facility have either been reunified with an appropriate sponsor or transferred to a state-licensed facility within the ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement] network of care providers as of August 3, 2019.” 

The agency said it intends to reduce its bed capacity at the facility from 2,700 beds to 1,200 beds for future access “in the event of increased referrals or an emergency situation.” It said it expects an uptick in referrals in the fall based on historic migration trends.{mosads}

Though no new unaccompanied alien children have been placed at the Homestead facility since July 3, the agency said it has sheltered approximately 14,300 children at the site since March 2018.

“HHS is committed to providing appropriate services for all unaccompanied alien children referred to us. In doing so, we make every effort to provide safe shelter and excellent care, while upholding our duty as good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” the agency said in its statement.

The Homestead center was activated in February 2018 as a temporary emergency influx shelter by the ORR for minors crossing the border without their parents as HHS experienced a record-breaking number of referrals that strained its existing capacities. 

HHS said that as of July 22, there are approximately 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children in ORR care overall.

The facility at Homestead swiftly emerged as HHS’s most controversial site after people who visited likened it to a prison, with a number of Democratic White House candidates visiting the facility around the time of the first presidential primary debate in June.

“It looks like a prison. … You’ve got a bunch of kids being marched around, teenagers … and it does not look like a place where teenagers are supposed to be or families are supposed to be,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a White House hopeful, said after a June visit. “Immediately I thought, ‘That’s a prison camp.'”

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