The children sat at long tables, eating eggs, cereal and drinking juice. The walls were decorated with artwork seemingly created by children. The boys and girls — separated by gender — walked in straight lines to their classrooms.
These were a few of the images released in a video by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday night, giving the first glimpse into life at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, where 1,200 immigrant children are being housed, including dozens of children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. border agents.
The video came a day after three Democratic Florida lawmakers — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Florida House Rep. Kionne McGhee — were denied entry into the facility.
Wasserman Schultz was extremely critical of HHS's decision to deny her access to the South Florida facility. Wednesday morning, she tweeted, "They won't show us a single picture of a young girl inside any of these facilities. They know what they're doing is wrong."
The 5-minute video, produced at U.S. taxpayer expense, according to the film credits, paints a rosy picture of the facility.
The video begins with children painting on pieces of cardboard with bright colors, then pans to artwork on the walls before zooming in on a piece of notebook paper with a math lesson.
The images show kids living in an institutional setting, with beige buildings and metal bunk beds lined up like in a barrack.
The video covered the basics: food, education, sports, and kids getting checkups.
The timing of the video came amid the growing outcry over President Donald Trump's decision to separate immigrant children from their parents, who, since April, have been arrested and prosecuted after trying to cross the border illegally. Over the past few days, Pope Francis, Republican leaders and two-thirds of Americans, according to the latest polls, had vociferously denounced Trump's zero-tolerance policy.
Since the policy began, more than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and are being housed in detention facilities for children being run by HHS.
Before this policy, immigrant families, especially those seeking asylum, would come to the United States and typically would be allowed to stay while their immigration claims were processed.
On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order that called for keeping families together. The order did not, however, address families who have already been separated.
Nelson said Thursday Trump's order does not do enough to solve the problem.
"Pres. Trump’s order does nothing to help the 2,300 kids already separated from their families. I am heading back to Homestead, FL Saturday to check on 94 kids there who were separated from their parents to find out exactly what’s being done to reunite them with their families," he tweeted Thursday morning.
Nelson and Wasserman Schultz will get a tour of the Homestead facility at 1 p.m. Saturday.