PRESS RELEASE – LIRS Bears Witness to the Conditions of Country’s Largest Child Detention Center:
Visit comes amidst widespread reports of abuse in the industry
For Immediate Release:
March 6, 2019
HOMESTEAD, FL—On Tuesday March 5, LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service) President and CEO Krish O’Mara Vignarajah was among a small number of faith-based and non-profit leaders invited by Health and Human Services to tour the Homestead Child Detention Facility.
“As a leading provider of short-term foster care and temporary community-based homes for unaccompanied children, it was eye-opening and heartbreaking to see so many children held in a single facility. Just to give you one example of what I saw—there were 144 children sleeping in one room,” said Vignarajah. “With nearly 1,700 children receiving care, I fear there’s simply no way to address the unique needs of each child.”
Following reports of widespread abuse in the industry, Vignarajah attended the visit with pointed questions about the safety and well-being of the children currently held at Homestead.
“Workers at Homestead are not subject to important background checks – like whether they have a history of child abuse,” said Vignarajah. “How can we be sure these children are safe? In light of recent, shocking reports of sexual abuse in detention facilities around the nation, it is crucial that a facility as large as Homestead does its due diligence to protect the children with background checks for all staff.”
Vignarajah also sought to gain an understanding of the processes in place to address claims of sexual abuse at Homestead. While Homestead has not been the subject of recent reports of sexual abuse in the industry, it is important that we continue to build up vehicles that protect these children and help them understand their rights.
“We are grateful to HHS for their transparency in allowing us to tour this facility,” said Vignarajah. “I trust that together, and with expertise from child-welfare experts nation-wide, we can move towards a solution that places more children in smaller settings that offer individualized care and robust protections.”
Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States, and only one of two agencies that helped reunite children with parents after family separations. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.