The largely unregulated Homestead detention center near Miami, Florida, has been under fire for its handling of immigrant children. But Fox News on Friday brought on a local pastor who frequently leads prayer services at the facility to offer a full-throated endorsement of the only for-profit detention center for immigrant children.
Pastor Russell Black, president of Latin Impact Ministries in Homestead, Florida, joined FOX & Friends to debunk concerns raised by journalists and public officials about the corporate-owned Homestead where thousands of migrant kids are being kept.
Black argued that because many of the kids are allowed to pray with him every week and none have complained, the care provided is “phenomenal.”
“As I see the print media, the politicians, make comments and allegations about the shelter, it blows me away that they don’t have the correct picture at all,” Black observed. “Many of us have been working there, volunteering for the last four years. We’ve been privileged to be able to conduct religious services there every Saturday morning. And literally thousands of children have passed through our services. And lives have been changed.”
Black dismissed “the allegations that we have heard many times” that kids are there for “indefinitely, for long periods of time,” because he has observed children who are, “as quickly as [possible] relocated to a safe family environment and sometimes it’s very quick.” He did concede that sometime it “takes longer time based on their individual circumstances,” but said he hoped his own children would be so lucky if they ever have to be stuck in an immigration detention facility. According to an NPR report in February, advocates said the average time children spent at the Homestead was 67 days.
Asked about whether he had seen any cases of abuse of children, Black argued that he had not and that as a pastor the kids would absolutely have told him had there been any.
“Absolutely. Without a moment’s hesitation,” he answered. “Not only do we have people there constantly day in and day out, not in staged visits where tours are conducted but actually operate in there. I have had the privilege of being there not just on Saturdays but during the week on spontaneous visits. And it is consistent. The same care that’s been taking place.”
Black said that he sometimes runs into “children and staff, outside the shelter, who are now living in the community” and has asked them about their experience at Homestead. “I have never had any of these individuals say that it was a bad experience,” he concluded.
In February, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) introduced the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act, aimed at closing Homestead and “unlicensed temporary emergency shelters.” Merkely noted that a secret Trump administration memo had revealed it aimed to “deter children fleeing persecution from coming to America by making life as difficult as possible for migrant children and families who come seeking asylum—including by intentionally ramping up child detention.”
The administration has, in recent months, moved to expand the number of kids housed at the Homestead facility and to cut legal aid, recreational, and education programs for the kids housed there. Pastor Black’s weekly religious services have apparently been unaffected.
Black, who was identified by Fox News as a “volunteer” at the facilities, did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about his comments and about whether he or his ministry had received any funding from the for-profit detention center or its parent companies.