Elizabeth Warren announces visit to migrant facility hours ahead of first debate

Posted at 9:03 PM, Jun 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-26 12:34:30-04

Sen.Elizabeth Warren said she will go on Wednesday to a facility in Homestead, Florida, that’s holding unaccompanied migrant children — a suddenly announced visit amid a fight on Capitol Hill over funding for the program that cares for such children and controversy over conditions at some border facilities.

“I’m going to Homestead tomorrow. Come with me,” Warren said Tuesday night at a Miami town hall, after an attendee urged her to visit the facility in order “to bring the press” and “national attention” to the children.

The visit to Homestead — just hours ahead of the first Democratic debate in Miami — was previously unscheduled. Warren advisers said she had decided to make the visit after speaking to immigration advocates backstage before her Miami campaign event.

The facility, which is about 45 minutes from Miami, is an influx facility run by the Department of Health and Human Services for unaccompanied children, who remain there until placed with sponsors in the US. There are around 2,300 children currently at Homestead, according to Evelyn Stauffer, spokeswoman for the HHS’ Administration for Children and Families.

“It’s been a year ago right now, when we were first hearing about children separated from their parents at the border,” said Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and presidential hopeful. “I went down to McAllen, Texas, and visited one of these facilities.”

Warren said that during her visit last June to the Texas facility —run by Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security — she had seen “cage after cage after cage” and “people who were frightened, people who didn’t understand what had gone wrong.”

“This is a bad time in America’s history,” she said.

Warren’s trip comes days after a Trump administration lawyer argued that migrant children in Customs and Border Protection custody didn’t need toothbrushes, blankets and medicine in order to be in safe and sanitary conditions.

Congress, meanwhile, is working on passing a border supplemental funding bill that would provide additional funds to HHS, which has been strained by the influx of migrants.

If Congress cannot agree on a bill, a key department within HHS — the Office of Refugees and Resettlement — will run out of money at the end of the month. The office is critical because it operates shelters for unaccompanied migrant children. The House passed a measure Tuesday night, but President Donald Trump has threatened to veto it and the Senate’s own bill is significantly different, complicating the chances of reaching a deal.

There have also been a stream of reports — including from CNN — of subpar conditions for children and families in the care of Customs and Border Protection.

In May, nearly 133,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border, according to Customs and Border Protection data, including more than 11,000 unaccompanied children.