The private company that operated a controversial South Florida detention center for migrant children for more than a year will not have its federal contract renewed, according to an email sent Friday to U.S. Rep. Debbie Murcasel-Powell, D-Fla., by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Citing a need for “fiscal prudence,” the federal government moved to let its multimillion-dollar contract with Comprehensive Health Services expire on Nov. 30 and will release all staff at the Homestead facility in the next five to seven days, according to the email.
In recent months, the facility had been operating with staff, but no children, costing taxpayers about $600,000 per day, according to Jonathan Hayes, director of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Roughly 1,200 migrant children, ages 13 to 17, were either transferred to state-licensed facilities or released to appropriate sponsors, Health and Human Services officials said.
While the contract with the private company will not be renewed, HHS intends to retain access to the site in case it wants to use it in the future.“Per our normal policy, we will keep Congress, local officials, and stakeholders notified of decisions related to the site,” the email said.
When the Trump administration reopened the facility in February 2018 to house migrant children as young as 13, the facility quickly became a flashpoint in immigration debates. After it began operating again, more than 14,300 migrant children were sheltered there.
Democrats and advocacy groups decried the facility’s “prison-like” conditions and urged the federal government to close it.
The shelter was also scrutinized after Florida officials received seven reports of alleged child sexual abuse at the facility. Since the Homestead facility stopped taking in migrant children in July, two Florida-licensed facilities, one in Miami Gardens and one in Lake Worth, have received children who were detained by federal immigration authorities.