Immigration

Hundreds march in Homestead for migrant children on Father’s Day

David Nurenberg spent his Father’s Day roughly 1,500 miles away from 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, with children who aren’t his own.

The 42-year-old traveled from Boston, Massachusetts, to Homestead on his own dime Friday night to attend a protest outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in southwest Miami-Dade County.

“We’re privileged because we can be together as a family,” he said. “I decided I wanted to use that privilege to get together on Monday for Father’s Day and instead spend some time Sunday in support of kids who aren’t as privileged.”

Nurenberg, a high school English teacher, was one of about 200 from all over the country who gathered outside the temporary detention center Sunday afternoon to demand that Trump’s administration shut it down.

Homestead is the only shelter of its kind that remains open in the U.S. In January, federal authorities closed the only other similar one in Tornillo, Texas. The Florida one is run by a for-profit company, Caliburn, but is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Eliana Young, 4, is held by her father Rabbi Daniel Young amongst over a hundred protestors, during a Father’s Day march at the Homestead Detention Center for children on Sunday, June 16, 2019. Daniel A. Varela dvarela@miamiherald.com

It houses about 1,300 children aged between 13 to 17 and who came primarily from Central America, but the government announced in April that it would add thousands of beds to expand its capacity and accommodate up to 3,200 migrants soon.

More than a dozen interfaith and activist groups put together the event. It started at about 2 p.m. with a rally under a tent that had “Black + brown bodies are not for profit” in which community leaders spoke about the cause.

Just before 3:30 p.m., the protesters wearing ponchos and carrying umbrellas marched on the street in front of the main entrance of the facility under a heavy downpour and screamed chants such as “Shut it down” and “This is what democracy looks like!”

The sea of umbrellas included some that were painted with colorful messages. Alice Crohn, a 52-year-old art teacher from Miami, said she painted about eight umbrellas that she donated with some friends in her studio using her own paint Saturday night.

Her favorite was one with a child’s sad face that read “Kids need their parents.”

“It was fantastic,” she said. “I like using art to raise awareness on issues I care about.”

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Retired school teachers from Tampa, FL, Diane Rodriguez, 73, and Mimi Pike, 67, hold a dog cage and signs during a march at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children on Sunday, June 16, 2019. Daniel A. Varela dvarela@miamiherald.com

She said she plans to donate the umbrellas to the Miramar Circle of Protection group that helps out immigrants at the Miramar Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office so that they can use them to shelter themselves from the scalding sun.

This is the second year that protesters spend Father’s Day outside the detention center. About 300 were also there on Mother’s Day this year.

Some families attended the rally together. Tamar Campbell, a 31-year-old Spaniard who’s lived in Miami for about 7 years, said her husband told her he wanted to spend his day there, so they both took their 1-year-old son Amos in his stroller and 4-year-old Micah.

“We decided it was good to teach them that there are things we need to get together with others and raise our voices for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Campbell said.

Micah had fun jumping in puddles, Campbell said, but at the same time he asked many questions about children and protest. “Why are they here?” “Where are their parents?”

The posters, mostly soaked from the rain, showed messages such as “No more detention center in Homestead” and “Free the children.”

One of them, however, said “F*** Trump and the GOP!” Falon Lofley, a stay-at-home mom and the president of the St. Lucie County Democratic Club, carried it.

The 36-year-old said other protesters told her not to use the sign because the overall message needed to be one representing love, not hate. She refused.

“We’re already passed that point of love,” she said. “We have to take a new position.”

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