People protest outside detention center for kids in Homestead

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jun 16, 2019

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — Clutching signs and umbrellas against a drenching downpour, scores of people protested Sunday outside a South Florida facility that has become the nation's biggest location for detaining immigrant children.

A coalition of religious groups and immigrant advocates said they want the Homestead detention center closed.

Protesters held signs that read "Homes Instead!" and "Stop Separating Families" as they beat drums and sang civil rights-era protest songs.

"Shut it down! Shut it down!" protesters shouted.

Lucy Duncan, an official with the American Friends Service Committee, asked protesters for a moment of silence to remember children who have died in federal custody, though not at the Homestead facility. She poured water into a potted plant as each of the seven names was read.

"It's a moral outrage," Duncan said. "We need for justice to break through. We need to remember those names."

Organizer Kristin Kumpf said 800 people from 22 states had RSVP'd for the protest being held on Father's Day.

Immigrant advocates have filed legal documents trying to force President Donald Trump's administration to quickly release immigrant children from the Florida detention center, which officials said in April could house up to 3,200 migrant teens.

The advocates accuse the administration of violating a decades-old settlement that they say requires immigrant children to be promptly released to relatives or other sponsors, or sent to child care facilities.

The immigrant advocates have filed court papers with hundreds of pages of teens describing "prison-like" conditions endured in the Homestead facility.

The children testified that they are allowed limited phone calls and told to follow numerous strict rules or risk prolonging their detention or facing deportation. Many said they had limited access to their social workers and described frustration at the process of reunification with relatives or sponsors.

"The law is not being followed in this case," said Danielle Levine Cava, a Miami-Dade County commissioner who spoke at the protest.