We’ve heard the horror stories from migrant detention centers all over America. We’ve heard of the prison-like atmospheres, as well as the allegations of abuse within these facilities.
In Arizona, a company called Southwest Key runs the child migrant centers for the areas around and including Phoenix and Tucson. In fact Southwest Key is contracted by the federal government to run 26 facilities in the United States, 13 of which are in Arizona. The Austin, Texas-based company has received $1.5 billion in federal funding from the U.S government.
There have been numerous reports of child abuse by employees at these centers over the past several months.
Unaccompanied migrant minors are brought in with the expectation that they will be treated well and humanely, but apparently this is not how they have all been treated. Earlier this month, in fact, one employee named Levian Pacheco at a Southwest Key facility in Mesa, Arizona was convicted on charges of molesting several young boys between the ages of 15 and 17.
Pacheco was found guilty on three counts of sexual abuse of a ward and seven counts of abusive sexual contact with a ward. The sexual acts committed by Pacheco ranged from groping to attempted rape and sodomy.
In another instance, a 6-year-old girl at a different Southwest Key facility, was sexually abused by another child at the facility while both children were separated from their parents. After the abuse took place, the facility made the 6-year-old sign a document saying that she was told to maintain her distance from her abuser.
In July, police also arrested an employee at a Southwest Key facility, named Fernando Magaz Negrete, for child molestation and sexual abuse after he was accused of fondling a 14 year old girl back in June.
That’s not all though. Over the past three years the Southwest Key facilities have been cited for hundreds of violations, and now the State of Arizona is trying to revoke the licenses from the 13 facilities which are run within the state.
The Arizona State Department of Health Services is seeking to remove these licenses from the company due to failure to show proof that they have run background checks on all of their employees. They had a deadline of September 14th to check on the clearances of their workers, and they have failed to meet it.
“A random check of the Tucson facility’s staffers found eight employees did not have the required background check,” Colby Bower, a DHS assistant director told azcentral. “Given that, it’s unlikely that 100 percent of the company’s estimated 2,000 Arizona employees cleared that bar.”
Whether or not the licenses are revoke, remains to be seen, but it is apparent that something needs to be done in order to protect these migrant children from the abuse that they are receiving at these federally funded facilities.