Lawmakers kept from entering South Florida facility housing immigrant children

Posted at 1:11 PM, Jun 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-19 19:19:19-04

HOMESTEAD, Fla. What's happening inside a temporary shelter housing 1,000 children separated from their immigrant parents? The answer is still a secret as Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, both Democrats, were turned away at the gate. 

RELATED: Republicans craft bill to keep detained families together

The Office of Refugee Resettlement told the Senator and Congresswoman that it would take two weeks for them to get approval to take a tour of the facility. 

"Obviously that is balderdash, you know better than telling me that we've got to fill out a form two weeks ahead of time when children's lives are at stake so they are obviously trying to cove up something they don't want us to see," said Senator Nelson who is running for reelection.

The Senator said until recently it has not been public knowledge that thousands of children are being separated from their parents at the border and taken to temporary shelters like the one in Homestead. Tuesday morning cameras caught dozens of teenage boys playing soccer at the facility; the main question Nelson, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, and State Representative Dionne McGhee have is are these children being cared for?

"There's a quality of life issue here. Are they sleeping on the floors, are they sleeping in cages. No one knows. Allow us 5 to 10 minutes to set eyes on these children," said McGhee who is like Nelson and Wasserman Schultz is a Democrat. 

 "We have a family separation policy that has gone far beyond prosecuting parents and saying well, we can’t let children go to jail with parents. They are simply trying to use the separation of children from their parents as an intimidation tactic," said Wasserman Schultz. 

Senator Nelson believe the thousand children at the Homestead facility are from all over the country and aims to find out if they were also separated from their parents in Florida. 

Congresswoman Wassermann Schultz said she's learned there are also two permanent shelters in Miami Gardens and Cutler Bay possibly with younger children. She said she plans to visit those next week.

Both Senator Nelson and Congresswoman Schultz said they are going to continue to fight to get into the Homestead facility before the two-week approval waiting period. They are also calling on Congress to fight the Trump administration and get President Trump to stop the separation of families immediately. 

“It is our duty as an American government to deal compassionately with any child from any nation just as it is the responsibility of foreign families seeking asylum in the U.S. to choose only legal means to enter our nation so they can avoid family disruption. I am confident this process will be improved,” Republican Congressman Brian Mast said in a statement.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio sent out tweets on the issue.