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Wasserman Schultz: Two more South Florida facilities holding children separated from their families.

Sunday - 24/06/2018 19:35
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Saturday that at least 10 newborns and toddlers up to five years old are being sheltered at His House Children’s Home near Miami Gardens and Boys Town in Cutler Bay.
U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz talked to the media on Saturday after touring through the Homestead shelter for migrant children. She was denied access into the facility Tuesday. [MIAMI HERALD]
U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz talked to the media on Saturday after touring through the Homestead shelter for migrant children. She was denied access into the facility Tuesday. [MIAMI HERALD]

At least 10 newborns and toddlers taken away from their parents after crossing the the U.S.-Mexico border are being housed in so-called "tender-age shelters" near Miami, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told the Miami Herald on Saturday.

The Florida lawmaker said the children — from newborns to those five years old — are being sheltered at His House Children's Home near Miami Gardens and Boys Town in Cutler Bay.

These facilities are also housing about 88 separated children ages 6 to 12, she said.

When the congresswoman provided the Miami Herald with these figures, she cited a document given to her by federal officials.

Mark Webber, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, could not immediately confirm the figures provided by Wasserman Schultz. He described "tender-age" shelters as facilities for youths 12 and younger.

"These are specialized facilities, licensed by the state, that are fully capable of taking care of very young children," he said.

Mary Ross Agosta, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami, confirmed Saturday that the Msgr. Bryan Walsh Children's Village in Cutler Bay, operated by Catholic Charities, is sheltering young children separated from their parents at the border. The facility first opened in 1958 to house Pedro Pan children from Cuba.

"I cannot confirm the exact age of the children, but I do know that we do have children who are younger that we normally have. We normally take in children who are past the age of 10," she said. "I do know that we have children who are younger than that, quite a bit younger than 10."

Agosta said the facility is filled to capacity with 81 children. She did not know how many of the children came in recently because of the border separations.

An attorney for His House could neither confirm nor deny the numbers and ages of the young children being sheltered there.

Following Wasserman Schultz's tour of the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children on Saturday, which houses children ages 13 to 17, Wasserman Schultz criticized the Trump administration's apparent lack of clear instruction on how to reunify the more than 2,300 children separated from their parents at the U.S. border since Trump's so-called "zero-tolerance" policy was enacted in April.

She said these three facilities, all located in Miami-Dade County, appear to be the only ones in Florida currently housing separated children.

Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell said on Saturday afternoon she did not know the number of separated youths who have been brought to Boys Town, nor their ages. Despite attempts by her and the city administration to visit the shelter and get more details about who was being housed there, she said she has been left in the dark.

"I'm disturbed about that fact that I was not informed," she said.
Democratic U.S. Reps. Wasserman Schultz, Frederica Wilson, Ted Deutch and Darren Soto entered the facility around 1 p.m., along with their staffs.

Behind them trailed state Sens. Annette Taddeo and José Javier Rodriguez, state Rep. Kionne McGhee and Miami-Dade County Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Danielle Levine Cava — all of whom were told they would not be allowed access Saturday.

Huddled under a white tent under a gray, rainy afternoon sky, they told reporters they were frustrated they could not enter.

"We're here locally. This is our local community. We know the community," Jordan said. "We want to see what's going on with those children."

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who was scheduled to walk in with the other federal lawmakers, arrived about an hour later because of a delayed flight.

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