Amnesty International USA today called on U.S. government contractor, Comprehensive Health Services, to end its operations at the Homestead detention center in Florida. A new briefing, No Home for Children: End the Contract to Operate the Homestead ‘Temporary Emergency’ Facility, exposes how Comprehensive Health Services is contributing to the U.S. government’s violations of the rights of unaccompanied children, who are held in prolonged and indefinite detention at Homestead. The briefing concludes that, by running the center and providing core services, the for-profit company is enabling the government to detain children at Homestead.
“Children should never be detained because of their immigration status,” said Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights.“It is never in the best interests of the child to be detained and kept from families and sponsors waiting to welcome them. If and when children are detained, it must be for the shortest time possible in the least restrictive setting. A child is a child and children deserve to be free and with their families.
Amnesty International USA concluded in its July 2019 report on Homestead that, contrary to legal obligations, the U.S. was violating the rights of children by holding them at Homestead for longer than the 20 day limit provided under national legal standards and in circumstances that amounted to indefinite detention.
While Homestead is not currently detaining children, according to statements made by officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Homestead remains open and retains the capacity to begin detaining children again in the event of increased referrals that they anticipate this fall. The Department of Health and Human Services has argued that retaining bed capacity is necessary to provide services to children. That means that the detention of children in Homestead could resume as early as November 2019. Between March 2018 and August 2019, over 14,300 children were held at Homestead. The current contract with Comprehensive Health Services expires on November 30, 2019.
DC Capital, Comprehensive Health Services, and Caliburn International’s Operations at Homestead
U.S.-based Comprehensive Health Services is a subsidiary of U.S.-based Caliburn International, LLC (Caliburn) and is ultimately wholly owned by U.S.-based private equity firm DC Capital Partners, LLC (DC Capital). Established in 1975, Comprehensive Health Services was bought by DC Capital in 2018.
Based on a detailed analysis of publicly available information and two visits to Homestead, Amnesty’s briefing details how Comprehensive Health Services are responsible for the day-to-day running of Homestead and for providing vital services that have enabled the U.S. government to detain children at the facility in prolonged and indefinite detention: these include education, case management, clinicians, medical care, educational services, legal services, security, and health. The briefing concludes that Comprehensive Health Services is therefore contributing to the U.S. government’s violation of the rights of unaccompanied children at Homestead.
The briefing also highlights how DC Capital, Caliburn, and Comprehensive Health Services have failed to meet their responsibility to respect human rights including the rights of children at Homestead. This responsibility requires companies to avoid contributing to human rights abuses through their operations and activities. The briefing shows that Comprehensive Health Services continued to operate and provide core services at Homestead over a number of years, although it would have been well aware of the risks of contributing to the prolonged and indefinite detention of children, from its own operations at the facility and publicly available information. It also concludes that DC Capital, Caliburn and Comprehensive Health Services did not take steps to identify and address the human rights risks of operating at Homestead and that, if they had taken these steps, they should have decided not to operate at Homestead.
As of publication date, Comprehensive Health Services, Caliburn, and DC Capital have not responded to requests for comment.
Amnesty International USA continues to call on the U.S. government to close the Homestead facility permanently, to stop the use of temporary influx facilities such as Homestead, and to stop the detention of children. Amnesty International USA calls on Comprehensive Health Services to end its operations at Homestead and not to renew its contract.
Note: On October 18, Amnesty International USA supporters will begin writing postcards to the CEO of Caliburn International, LLC demanding Caliburn stop its operations at Homestead as soon as possible and not renew its contract with the U.S. government to operate the Homestead detention facility.