Thirty miles south of where Elizabeth Warren will take the stage on Wednesday night for the first of two presidential primary debates, the Massachusetts senator climbed a ladder to peer over a chain-link fence enclosing a detention center for young migrants.
From her vantage point, Warren said a sprawling campus with massive white tents, metal trailers, a soccer field – and organized in single file lines, the children and young adults who are being housed at the facility in Homestead, Florida.
“These were children who were being marched like they were soldiers - like they were prisoners - from one place to another,” Warren said. “This is not what we should be doing as a country. These children did not commit a crime. These children pose no threat.”
The facility, which is run by Comprehensive Health Services, Inc., a private, for-profit company, has become a backdrop for Democratic presidential hopefuls to rail against Donald Trump’s immigration policies while in Miami, a city known as the capital of Latin America” where more than 70% of the population is Hispanic, located in Florida, one of country’s most important battleground states.
Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar arrived on the scene shortly after Warren departed and Jane Sanders, the wife of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, also joined protesters on Wednesday. Democratic hopefuls Beto O’Rourke and author Marianne Williamson were due to visit later this week. California congressman Eric Swallwell documented his visit here on Monday: “These children need homes, NOT a privatized prison,” he said on Twitter.
Their visits come after photos were published of a father and his toddler daughter face down in the Rio Grande river, where they drowned trying to cross the border to seek asylum in the United States and amid a fresh found of reports about the conditions that children are being kept in at Border Patrol stations near the border. Lawyers who had visited the facilities said children were being kept without adequate food, water or basic sanitary needs such as toothpaste and soap.
“What is happening at Homestead to children – what is happening is the direct result of activities of the United States government is wrong,” Warren told a sweat-soaked crush of activists and reporters said Warren. “It is a stain on our country and we must speak out.”
Warren, who wore a hat with the message “Home Instead”, touted her plan to ban private, for-profit prisons and detention centers. =
The senator was not scheduled to visit the facility, but added the stop after hearing from activists ahead of her town hall in Miami on Tuesday night.
Jane Sanders told the Guardian it was “heartbreaking” to see the facility firsthand. She said Sanders first executive order as president would be to close the private detention facilities.
She also that her husband had voted against legislation in that led to the creation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in 2002.
“Everything that he feared has come true,” she said, referring to the agency, “and it needs to be abolished. We need a complete overhaul of our immigration system.”