EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans are demanding answers from Vice President Kamala Harris on whether a facility for migrant children in Florida has not been activated because of the Democrat’s personal politics.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, authored a letter with her 25 GOP committee colleagues to Harris on Thursday that questions whether a campaign pledge the vice president made in 2019 is the reason why a facility that could house migrant children is not in use.
Their concern centers on the Biscayne Bay facility in Florida that was formerly known as the “Homestead” shelter for unaccompanied children. Harris was among a wave of Democratic presidential hopefuls who visited the facility during the Trump Administration to call out what they viewed were inhumane practices by the former president.
During her visit on June 29, 2019, Harris criticized the facility and called out “human rights abuse” committed by the federal government. “When elected, the first thing I’m going to do … is to shut down these private detention facilities. Just shut them down,” Harris said at the time.
Now, with an overwhelming number of migrant children crossing the border and existing facilities under capacity restraints, the GOP members question why the Florida facility has not been put to use. The Carrizo Springs facility in Texas was reactivated by the Biden administration to respond to the surge and they ask Harris whether her politics are getting in the way.
“We are concerned your refusal to reactivate Biscayne Bay is politically motivated,” the GOP members wrote Thursday to Harris in a letter first obtained by Fox News.
The GOP members say that not using The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facility in Florida is having a detrimental impact on the migrant children.
Vice President Harris Meets Virtually With Community Leaders On Covid-19 Public Education Efforts U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris listens while meeting virtually with community leaders on Covid-19 public education efforts in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, April 1, 2021. The White House this week criticized a World Health Organization report on the origins of the coronavirus, calling it incomplete and faulting data and access provided to its authors by China. Photographer: Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Photographer: Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
“Refusing to reactivate an ORR influx facility that has been kept in ‘warm status’ while ORR experiences a surge in UC [unaccompanied minor] referrals is having real consequences, especially when border patrol facilities are significantly overcapacity and children are being kept in CBP facilities for longer than 72 hours,” the lawmakers wrote.
A spokesperson for Harris did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
President Biden in March named Harris the White House point person for dealing with Latin American countries on stemming the “root causes” of migration. Republicans have been highly critical of the vice president for not yet visiting the border in person.
The GOP letter also presses Harris for border security answers, ranging from coronavirus protocols, background checks on staff working at emergency intake sites, and reports of neglect and abuse at a Texas migrant facility.
The Homestead facility has long been controversial and viewed by Democrats and activists as a symbol of what was wrong with Trump’s immigration policies. A group of protesters recently demonstrated outside the facility demanding Homestead stay permanently shut.
At least one Florida Democrat, however, supports reopening the facility, arguing the Biden Administration would operate under different standards.
“The Homestead facility is empty! Bring the immigrant children,” Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson tweeted last month. “Send us the girls. Bring them now and hold me and my community responsible for their humane treatment. We will visit often and monitor their care! Miami-Dade is opening its arms!”