Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was denied entry to the Homestead detention center for migrant children on Wednesday, just hours before the first debate of the 2020 election cycle in downtown Miami.
Also, Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, along with the wife of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and activist actress Alyssa Milano all were denied entry, as was California Congressman Eric Swalwell when he visited Tuesday. Despite that, former congressman Beto O’Rourke, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former HUD secretary Julián Castro, Senators Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand and author Marianne Williamson are expected to stop by later this week.
When asked a question about why she hadn’t visited the Homestead shelter last night during her Florida International University community town hall, Warren made the impromptu decision to bus protesters there. Those who could squeeze into a couple of buses left Wednesday morning from Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.
Before Warren spoke to the crowd outside the Homestead detention center, she climbed on what many community organizers simply call, “the ladder.” It’s actually a series of 3-step ladders that organizers have been using for the last few months to wave to migrant children over the walls.
This is “the ladder” where protesters outside the #Homestead detention center can climb up and shout to the unaccompanied migrant children inside. @ewarren just stopped by this morning as promised - she wasn’t let in @WLRN pic.twitter.com/tMdGneGvj7
— Lily Oppenheimer (@LilyOppenheimer) June 26, 2019
Those few steps are the only line of communication between the protesters and the thousands of children on the inside.
She told reporters that these were children were being marched like “little soldiers — like little prisoners — from one place to another.”
A year ago, Warren visited the Ursula detention center in McAllen, Texas — the largest Border Patrol detention center in the U.S. and described by immigration lawyers and pediatricians who visited as “degrading and inhumane.”
A motion filed last month by immigration attorneys who spent time at the Homestead shelter also details the children enduring "prison-like" conditions — and reports many suffering intense psychological trauma.
One Miami resident, Nulise Santana, also caught a glimpse of the children walking in a single-file line from one building to another.
“It’s kind of a desperate feeling to want to do something and feel like our hands are tied,” she said. “They were all looking down — they were all wearing neon caps, and I’m wondering if they’re told to not acknowledge us or just to look down and walk.”
New Florida Majority South Dade Organizer Kelli Ann Thomas was impressed that Warren was spontaneous enough to travel all the way down to Homestead on the same day as her debate.
“We get on these ladders and we overlook the fence and when they have their playtime and their recess time, they can see us. And we show them signs and chant to them in Spanish,” Thomas said. “I am here as often as I can be.”
This report was supplemented with information from news partner the Miami Herald.