A sea of white large tents has been assembled near the Homestead Air Reserve Base at Homestead’s Job Corps site.
The location is being transformed into an 800-bed temporary shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children who are under the care of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). The tents are for extra space.
“We had contractors put up tents to add extra capacity to the site, like bathrooms and laundry facilities,” said Andrea Helling, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “It’s tented so that it is air conditioned and can fully serve as an indoor environment.”
The building is slated to house up to 800 refugee children ages 0-18 from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador who cross the U.S. border without family. The building is located at Southwest 285th Street.
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The HHS has another shelter near the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
When the children arrive at the 75-acre site, they’ll be be given food, clothes and will participate in recreational activities. The HHS reported in December that the unaccompanied children could begin to arrive as early as February. So far, the facility has yet to be used.
“The numbers of those crossing the border is usually higher in the fall, and lower in January, February and March,” Helling said. “It’s hard to tell what the numbers will be, but we just want to be ready. We have it in reserve status so we can turn it on within 30-day notice.”
HHS is responsible for providing around-the-clock care and safety of unaccompanied immigrants who are 17 years old and younger while they are in the United States. Children spend 32 days on average at the shelters while HHS looks for a sponsor and waits for immigration proceedings. The children do not integrate into the local community.
Last year, about 55 percent of children who crossed the border had parents living in the U.S. and went to live with them; 35 percent went to live with close family members; and the remaining kids went to live with a distant relative or family friends, Helling said.
In August 2015, federal officials suspended classes at Homestead Job Corps after four students were arrested and charged with the machete murder of a classmate. Most Job Corps participants from the Miami-Dade area are being enrolled in the four other Job Corps centers in Florida.