Immigrant and community leaders rally asking for the shut down of the Homestead detention center
The company that runs the Homestead center that’s holding more than 1,000 migrant teenagers canceled its plans to go public Tuesday after a growing outcry over the firm making money off the children.
The Virginia-based Caliburn International Corp. said in a letter Tuesday to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company will no longer conduct a planned public offering. It had planned to sell up to $100 million in stock.
Caliburn, which filed its registration statement with the SEC in October, decided to withdraw the offering “due to the variability in the stock markets,” said Jim Van Dusen, president and chief executive officer. “Our business continues to grow, and we could potentially return to the public markets in the future.”
The withdrawal came on the same day that a coalition of Florida immigration activists and community leaders launched a campaign demanding that the Trump administration shut down the Homestead detention center, the largest of about 100 centers nationwide and the only one run by a for-profit company.
Maria Asunción Bilbao, a local organizer with United We Dream, said the groups want to stop Caliburn from profiting off the migrant children, who came to the country as unaccompanied minors to escape the violence in their Central American homelands .
“We are part of the money that is placed in these corporations at the expense of the suffering of our families,” said Bilbao, one of about 30 people protesting Tuesday at the Homestead center. “Every day these children are here, these companies make money. It’s disgusting.”
The Homestead facility houses about 1,600 children and teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. After the government closed a large detention camp in Tornillo, Texas, in January, immigration authorities announced they would expand the Homestead center by nearly 800 beds, up to 2,350 children.
That’s about three times the number of children who were detained when the Obama administration opened the facility to care for about 800 teens for 10 months in 2016.
Comprehensive Health Services of Cape Canaveral has run the Homestead facility since then. A Washington-based private equity firm, DC Capital Partners, bought Comprehensive and created Caliburn as part of the deal.
John Kelly, the former chief of staff for President Donald Trump and the former head of the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, sat on the board of DC Capital Partners prior to joining the Trump administration, the Associated Press reported.
Federal lawmakers, who toured the center last month, said they were concerned that a for-profit company was chosen to receive more children than any other facility and that some teenagers were being held there for months. The average length of stay at Homestead has gone up since last summer from 25 days last June to 67 days as of December.
“While I’m pleased that Caliburn abandoned its plans to go public now, they are still profiting off of the Trump Administration’s inhumane immigration policies,” Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Florida Democrat whose district includes Homestead, said in a statement. “Migrant children are still being locked up in Homestead, and I haven’t received a clear answer why they remain there longer than at a government shelter.”
Thomas Kennedy, the political director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said if immigration authorities refuse to get rid of the centers completely, then he would like them to be more transparent and ban for-profit companies from monetizing immigration.
The centers should be smaller, Kennedy said. Instead of assigning more than 200 children in a single room, sleeping in beds placed one after another “like sardines,” Kennedy said that each child should have more space.
Recently, documents from the Department of Health and Human Services showed that thousands of migrant children have been sexually abused in detention centers where they were being held.
One of the leaders at Tuesday’s protest was Dorita Marina, a psychoanalyst who has worked for several decades with immigrants for Miami-Dade County. The 90-year-old woman spoke about the psychological problems that separation of families can have on children.
Children who are separated from their families tend to lose the ability to relate to others, express their feelings and learn new information, Marina said. Additionally, many develop a sense of shame and guilt for being abandoned.
Marina asked the government to provide psychological therapy to the children and their relatives or sponsors to deal with what happened before they get reunited.