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Biden’s Plan To Reopen The Homestead Detention Center, Sewage Problems, And Alligator Wrestling

Miami Herald
Moms, activists, community leaders and children march during a Mother's Day protest to shut down the country's largest child detention facility outside the Homestead Detention Center in Homestead, Florida, on Sunday, May 12, 2019.

The Biden administration is considering reopening a controversial migrant detention center. WLRN's investigation into South Florida's sewage crisis. And we hear from a Seminole Alligator wrestler.

On this Thursday, Feb. 25, episode of Sundial:

Biden’s Plan To Reopen The Homestead Detention Center

The Biden Administration is planning to reopen the Homestead detention center for unaccompanied migrant teens.

The facility, which is now known as the Biscayne Influx Care Facility, was abruptly shut down in 2019 after a Miami Herald report found they didn’t have a hurricane plan.

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Reports of sexual abuse followed. And it was later revealed that employees caring for the kids were not vetted specifically for prior child abuse records.

“We spoke with some folks in the Department of Homeland Security who are not authorized to speak publicly on this matter and there’s also some additional evidence out there showing that the facility is ramping for potential operations,” said Alex Daugherty, the Miami Herald’s Washington correspondent.

The Miami Herald found documents that show the federal government has hosted virtual meetings for prospective contractors “for three upcoming temporary influx shelters under the Unaccompanied Alien Children’s Program.”

There was also a recent Miami job posting by a contractor for an “exciting new career opportunity supporting direct care services and supervision at Biscayne Influx Facility!”

The facility was used as a photo-op for presidential hopefuls during their campaign.

Vice President Kamala Harris was among those who visited and used it to criticize the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Biden’s Plan To Reopen The Homestead Detention Center

South Florida Sewage Problems

South Florida is continuing to develop at a rapid pace; the state is seeing, on average, 1,000 new residents each day. But the new condos sprouting up in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach are sitting on top of old, rusted pipes down below. And nowhere has the crisis facing our sewage infrastructure been more pronounced than in Fort Lauderdale.

In December 2019, the city was dealing with the worst sewage breaks Florida has ever seen. The amount of raw sewage in Fort Lauderdale streets exceeded the total amount released during the massive BP oil spill — more than 211 million gallons.

Residents are very worried about the impact of sewage spills on the environment, public health and how long it will take the city to revamp a system that's more than 50 years old.

WLRN reporters Caitie Switalski Muñoz and Jenny Staletovich spent the past year investigating sewage woes in South Florida and found tourism and development are pushing the system to its limits. Find the full investigation here.

Sewage Problems

Alligator Wrestling

For the month of February, in the Sundial Book Club, we’ve been reading ‘Swamplandia!’ by Karen Russell.

The setting of the story takes place in a fictitious theme park in the middle of the Everglades. A family, pretending to be Native American, is trying to attract visitors, especially with their alligator shows.

Alligator performances, like gator wrestling, have been around for decades in Florida.

The Seminole Tribe has a long history of the practice and much of it is focused on developing a relationship with the animal. Alligator wrestling has been a large money-maker for Seminole Tribes dependent upon tourism but in recent years it’s also seen as critical in keeping the tribe culturally relevant.

Alligator Wrestling

We recently spoke with Billy Barefoot Walker, a Seminole alligator wrestler. You can read the New Yorker investigation here and watch the short documentary film by Native American filmmakers Adam Khalil and Adam Piron below.

Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.
Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.