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Babies separated from parents are in immigrant shelters near Miami, lawmaker says

Debbie Wasserman Schultz talks about her tour through the Homestead shelter for migrant children last June

Three South Florida congresswomen were denied entry to the Homestead child detention center despite a new law mandating congressional access there. In this video from June 2018, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz talks about her tour of center.
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Three South Florida congresswomen were denied entry to the Homestead child detention center despite a new law mandating congressional access there. In this video from June 2018, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz talks about her tour of center.

At least 10 babies and toddlers taken away from their parents after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are being housed in "tender-age shelters" in Miami-Dade, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told the Miami Herald on Saturday.

The Florida lawmaker said the children — who range in age from newborns to 5 year olds — are being sheltered at His House Children’s Home in Miami Gardens and Catholic Charities' Msgr. Bryan Walsh Children’s Village in Cutler Bay, formerly known as Boys Town.

These facilities are also housing about 88 children ages 6 to 12 who have been separated from their parents, she said.

When the Democratic congresswoman, who represents parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, provided the Miami Herald with these figures, she cited a document given to her by federal officials.

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His House in Miami Gardens is one of two shelters in Miami-Dade County that are sheltering migrant children from newborns to 5-year-olds, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Saturday, June 23, 2018. The children were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, Wasserman Schultz said. CHARLES TRAINOR JR. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Mark Weber, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, could not immediately confirm the figures provided by Wasserman Schultz. He described "tender-age" shelters as facilities for youths 12 and younger.

"These are specialized facilities, licensed by the state, that are fully capable of taking care of very young children," he said Saturday.

Mary Ross Agosta, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami, confirmed Saturday that the Msgr. Bryan Walsh Children’s Village in Cutler Bay, operated by Catholic Charities, is sheltering young children separated from their parents at the border.

"I cannot confirm the exact age of the children, but I do know that we do have children who are younger that we normally have. We normally take in children who are past the age of 10," she said. "I do know that we have children from the border who are younger than that, quite a bit younger than 10."

Agosta said the facility is filled to capacity with 81 children. She did not know how many of the children came in recently because of the border separations.

The Archdiocese first opened the home more than five decades ago to house Pedro Pan children from Cuba as part of an Archdiocese program to resettle thousands of unaccompanied Cuban children in the United States after Fidel Castro came to power.

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Catholic Charities' Msgr. Bryan Walsh Children’s Village, formerly known as Boys Town, in Cutler Bay is sheltering 70 children separated from their parents at the U.S. -Mexico border, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Saturday. A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese confirmed that young children taken from their parents at the border are being cared for at the home.

Following Wasserman Schultz's tour of the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children on Saturday, Wasserman Schultz criticized the Trump administration’s lack of clear instruction on how to reunify the more than 2,300 children separated from their parents at the U.S. border since Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy was enacted in April by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

 

While President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that called for keeping families together, the order did not address families who have already been separated.

Wasserman Schultz said the three Miami-Dade shelters appear to be the only ones in Florida currently housing separated migrant children.

As of Friday, there were 1,179 migrant children ages 13 to 17 —792 boys and 387 girls — at the Homestead shelter, including at least 70 who had been separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexican border, program director Leslie Wood said.

On Saturday, Wasserman Schultz confirmed the 70 separated children in Homestead. In addition, she said there were 125 children separated from their parents at the border at His House and another 70 at the Children's Village home.

An attorney for His House on Saturday could neither confirm nor deny the numbers and ages of the young children being sheltered there.

 

Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell said on Saturday afternoon she did not know the number of separated youths who have been brought to Children's Village, nor their ages. Despite attempts by her and the city administration to visit the shelter and get more details about who was being housed there, she said she has been left in the dark.

 

"I'm disturbed about that fact that I was not informed," she said.

Miami Herald staff writers Kyra Gurney and Joan Chrissos contributed to this report.

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