After almost two years of relentless organizing and advocacy, it appears that the Homestead Detention Camp for children will no longer hold any detained children in custody, at least for now.
The cause for this development has been explained by multiple reasons, including a tropical wave looming in the Atlantic Ocean triggering concerns regarding the facility’s secretive hurricane plan.
While hurricane season must have certainly played a role in the transfer of children from the facility, it cannot be denied that the South Florida community rallied against the for-profit detention of migrant children and clearly sent a message that this would not be tolerated here.
For a year and a half, there were rallies, press conferences, vigils and protests outside the facility. Community organizations like the American Friends Service Committee, We Count and United We Dream organized community meetings and mobilized their membership in opposition of the facility. Community members held a vigil for hundreds of days as they “witnessed” the injustice being perpetrated by the Trump administration.
When we first learned that the detention center was reopening after being closed during the Obama era, a public backlash led the company running the facility, Caliburn, to cancel plans to sell $100 million in shares on the stock market. When the community unites, we can stop these corporate entities from profiteering off the suffering of black and brown bodies.
Another concern that opponents of this detention camp for children raised was the fact that it would create a dynamic where the Homestead economy would be reliant on facilities like this. We did not want a beautiful community like Homestead to rely on the detention of human beings as an economic engine and we also warned that it would be unsustainable in the long run.
We were proven right.
Unfortunately, over 4,000 workers were employed at the detention camp and most have now lost their jobs. Only 130 employees were retained on site to maintain the property in case it is ever used again for the detention of migrants. Local government is now burdened by the large influx of layoffs and is attempting to offer assistance to these newly unemployed people.
Our communities need long term, well-paying jobs that don’t stem from the criminalization of black and brown people.
Due to the efforts of so many good people and organizations, it seems that for now we won’t have the large scale for-profit detention of migrant children in our lovely community in South Florida, but our work is not over yet.
We need transparency on where the youth who have not been reunited with their families were transferred, and we need to make sure that the 17-year-olds who are turning 18 are not sent to adult detention centers to await deportation.
We need to continue fighting to make sure that not one more of these so-called “temporary influx shelters” opens elsewhere. Here in South Florida, we showed the country that we would not back down in the face of injustice.
We will not back down going forward.
Thomas Kennedy is the Political Director for Florida Immigrant Coalition Votes (FLIC Votes) and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. He tweets from @Tomaskenn.