Three Flee Tucson’s Southwest Key Unaccompanied Alien Minor Compound

Southwest Key Lighthouse facility, Phoenix, AZ

In two days, three teens fled the Southwest Key facility for Unaccompanied Alien Children in northwest Tucson. On October 6, two 16 year old males ran away, and the next day one 17 year old male ran away from the fenced facility.

According to the Tucson Police Department Public Information Office, none of the juveniles were a danger to themselves or others. While TPD did not have any information on their countries of origin, most of the residents of the highly guarded and secretive facility are from Guatemala.

TPD referred all questions as to the remaining residents’ welfare to Border Patrol and Southwest Key.

Related article: The UACs are the keys to Southwest Key’s success

Southwest Key Estrella Del Norte facility, Tucson, AZ

Southwest Key Estrella Del Norte facility, Tucson, AZ

For two years, officials on every level of government in Arizona have turned a blind eye to the residents of Southwest Key’s facilities across the state, while using the residents for their political purposes. This is the case despite the fact that the Arizona Department of Education funnels well over $100,000 a month to the organization.

According to the ADE, Southwest Key has been conducting business in Arizona since 2005. The ADE recognizes Southwest Key as “a residential childcare institution (RCCI) created by Health and Nutrition Services for the purposes of administering the Child Nutrition Programs. Licensure occurs at the Arizona Department of Health Services for all Arizona child care facilities.

The Tucson facility has capacity for 283 beds, and is licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services as a residential behavioral facility.

Southwest Key is operating the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program at 7 sites: Campbell, Casa Las Palmas, Casa Phoenix, Hacienda Del Sol, Lighthouse, Myrtle, and Tucson’s Estrella Del Norte.

The ADI reported in 2014, the Austin, Texas based company, led by El Presidente Dr. Juan Sánchez, claims to be the largest provider of services to unaccompanied children in the United States. According to the Southwest Key website, they operate “68 juvenile justice and family programs, safe shelters for immigrant children, schools, and community building initiatives.”

According to documents obtained by a Freedom of Information request, Southwest Key was awarded over $120 million dollars a year since 2009 for services to UACs on top of what they receive for managing their juvenile justice programs. In 2014, Southwest Key was awarded over $7 million for the Tucson facility. Funding was provided for “up to 280 unaccompanied alien children referred by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Administration for Children and Families, DHHS.”

The $7 million received for the Tucson facility in 2014 covered everything from travel for executives to “multicultural crayons.”

There are so many questions and no one seems either willing or able to answer them. Other than spot inspections by the ADE in 2014 related to the milk program, all Arizona officials seem uninterested in the welfare of the minors. When asked shortly after taking office, about the fact that the minors are kept within gated compounds in apparent violation of federal regulations, newly elected Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas laughed and said, “I fought hard as a school board member to have gates around schools.” Douglas was then advised that the compounds are not schools, but essentially refugee camps. She then became defensive and the matter was dropped.

The only organization that does seem interested in the minors is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In April 2015, the ACLU filed in federal court asking the court to order the federal government to release documents related to how groups that are awarded government funding contracts are restricting undocumented immigrant teenagers’ access to reproductive health services, primarily contraception and abortion.

Reports indicate that between 60 and 80 percent of women and girls who cross the border are sexually assaulted, however according to sources, many are concerned that the minors have been turned over to cartels, who then sell them in their human trafficking enterprises.

The ACLU is now claiming that some of the religious organizations, contracted with the government to provide the minors with day-to-day care, including health care, “impose their religious beliefs on these teens by denying them access to contraception, emergency contraception, and abortion.”

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik, who has claimed to be concerned for the minors, did not respond to our questions as to whether anyone from the City has inspected Estrella Del Norte or if anyone with any authority will investigate whether the run-aways fled the facility due to safety concerns.

2 Comments on "Three Flee Tucson’s Southwest Key Unaccompanied Alien Minor Compound"

  1. I used to work for Southwest Key in Tucson and along with approximately 52 employees who resigned and currently many more quitting. From clinicians in mental health, to youth careworkers, to case managers all of whom have quit due to unethical things going on within the shelter which runs like a prison and mafia within itself. The lack of care for the children is of high concern. From clothing to personal hygiene items provided and food. To children remaining in the cafeteria from 8 am to 7pm without going outdoors due to management wanting to keep their grass green. From punishing all of the children because one child wrote on the bathroom wall. Employees having to make donations for food, diapers, activity projects, notebooks and pencils and so much more. Us employees were there for the well-being of the children. Children have been sexually abused in the shelter. Southwest key upper management kept telling us la familia. We take care of each other. My heart sank every time a child approach me telling me how hungry they were. Babies running out of milk formula. The news media is welcomed to interview all of us professionals who have resigned. I’m sure Southwest Key management will cover it up. All of us have to do something to help the children in that (Tucson Southwest Key-Estrella del Norte) shelter.

  2. Matilde Bennett | December 11, 2015 at 10:00 pm |

    Wow! As a former Southwest Key Programs Nueva Esperanza I know about the unethical manner of operating the program. I have voiced my concerns to ORR but no responses. I will not give up until I’m heard!

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