Amnesty International USA’s recent immigration campaign in Florida features a series of billboards that negatively highlight the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Homestead Emergency Care Shelter. Its ads are riddled with demagoguery and create distorted images for Floridians, despite the fact that the shelter saved thousands of minors from across the world.
Placing the ads throughout Florida in conjunction with the United Nation’s World Children’s Day earlier this week, the billboards read, “You Are Now 7 Miles Away From Where Kids Are Locked Up,” “We Don’t Believe in Locking Up Children,” and “Florida: Amusement Parks. Beaches. Detained Children.”
Despite the ads suggesting that migrant children are currently being “locked up” at the facility, the facility has not housed a single child since August 3, 2019. But more importantly, the characterization of the shelter being prison-like and implying that it’s violating human rights is egregious and a clear act of political theater.
Implemented under the Obama administration in 2016, the Homestead Emergency Care Shelter was a facility that housed unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who arrived at the southern border. UACs are minors who arrive to the U.S. without a legal guardian. They were then placed in the Homestead Shelter for an average of 25 days before being released to an appropriate sponsor. The process took roughly a month to ensure children were not released to human traffickers, violent criminals, or adults fraudulently posing as family members. It would have also been grossly negligent to release a minor in a foreign city without a guardian.
While at the facility, children were given access to 24/7 medical care, dining halls with three meals and two snacks a day, educational classrooms teaching English, math and science, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, and many more support services.
The primary objective was to provide support and care to minors who arrived in destitute conditions and to properly place them with suitable sponsors, who are often parents and relatives already within the United States.
Despite this public information, Amnesty International USA’s, executive director, Margaret Huang, continued with the campaign and asserted, “the Trump administration has detained children for the act of seeking safety,” while Amnesty International USA’s migration researcher, Denise Bell, added that “we don’t want temporary care influx facilities like Homestead to exist at all.”
The defiance from Huang and Bell is unsurprising. Other open borders advocates have continually criticized the facility for years despite never seeing the facility first-hand.
FAIR staff have visited the shelter as recently as March 2019 and confirmed that the mainstream media and open borders advocacy organizations were giving incomplete accounts of the facility.
As FAIR staff observed while touring the facility, “Children receive three meals a day. They receive a free five-day supply of clothing. They take educational assessments and attend school, sometimes for the first time in their lives. All children receive mental and physical health screenings, including vaccinations. HHS assigns them a caseworker who helps them find a sponsor, vets one if they have one, and keeps them in contact with family and friends back home.
“But to smear the Homestead shelter as a prison is farcical. HHS handles pairing and vetting thousands of unaccompanied minors with sponsors. They always act with the children’s best interest, to the best of their ability.”
Amnesty International USA’s anti-Homestead facility billboard campaign is superficial and does not take into account that the facility’s intent was to protect minors. The ad does not even consider that the facility has been closed for months now. There are no “kids locked up.”
If the organization genuinely wanted to highlight the U.N.’s World Children’s Day, it should pressure Congress to close the nation’s political asylum loopholes, which are endangering children daily.