Oregon Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley visited the Homestead Child Detention Center in Florida this week. He’s calling for an end to the policy of placing asylum-seeking children in prison camps.
The Homestead Detention Center has recently expanded to hold more than 23-hundred kids aged 13 to 17. Senator Merkley toured the facility and spoke with some of the teens, who told him they’d been threatened with longer detentions if they misbehaved. He says imprisonment further traumatizes kids who are already fleeing crises in their native countries.
“And it’s being done as a strategy of inflicting trauma to send a message to the world that if you come as a refugee to America we will hurt you. We will hurt you. We will inflict trauma on you. We will mistreat you. This is not in accordance with the American spirit and we have to shut this place down.”
Merkley successfully pressured U.S. officials to close a child detention center in Texas in January. He says it might be harder to shutter the Florida facility since it’s a private for-profit prison.