In response to heartbreaking reports from whistleblowers associated with the Southwest Key shelters for unaccompanied minor children and their treatment – or lack thereof – at the hands of the coyotes and the federal government, Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe introduced legislation on Tuesday, HB2682, that requires a refugee facility to be licensed by the state and the facility will be inspected monthly.
Thorpe has also introduced HB2370, which will not allow non-citizens into the state of Arizona unless they have followed a certain set of background checks from the United States government. HB 2370 articulates that the State of Arizona shall comply with the federal government and the placement of non-citizens into Arizona if the person has undergone a thorough criminal history, terrorism, and health background check. After thorough background checks the state will have final approval and the United States government shall reimburse the state for the costs of placing the persons into Arizona.
Both measures establish credibility and safety for each facility in the state. Thorpe believes that both measures establish credibility and safety for each facility in the state.
Rep. Thorpe said, “As the world around us becomes more volatile and situations more precarious, we must maintain Arizona’s security and the protection of its people. These bills ensure persons coming to Arizona uphold Arizonan and United States law. Arizona is great because of its people, and we welcome those who wish to join our great state, but through a stable process and procedure.”
Speaker of the House David Gowan introduced similar legislation that not only examines the refugee process but also ensures the safety of every Arizona citizen. Speaker Gowan’s bill, HB 2691, will conduct an audit to accurately assess the number of refugees who have been resettled in the state and the amount of monies that have been spent on the refugee resettlement program.
The audit aims to search for facts and reliable data so the state can make well-informed decisions in the future regarding resettlement. Without a factual assessment of the current resettlement program, the state will not be able to make the best possible decision on behalf of the citizens of Arizona.
Speaker Gowan stated, “The time to act is now. We need to take seriously the concerns that have been raised nationally regarding this program. Arizona is a state that receives many refugees, we must ensure the identities and background of all persons in this program, regardless of country or region. My bill will ensure a timely and accurate audit on the resettlement program. Arizonans can know that each and every person relocated in their state have been properly vetted while also having accurate information on the program. This process will benefit the state and its citizens.”
In July 2014, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, claimed that the Obama administration would attempt to warn Central American parents to stop sending their children on the dangerous route to entering the U.S. illegally. At the time, Johnson’s statement that some girls are given birth control “in case they’re raped along the way,” shocked the nation.
As the ADI reported in January, little was done to protect the children, and in parts of Arizona and Texas, the border surge did not recede. In fact; it increased.
Whistleblowers reached out to the ADI and Rep. Thorpe to report that Southwest Key, under the direction of the office of Refugee Resettlement, gave little scrutiny to those who received the minors. An AP article confirmed those claims.
The AP report read in part:
“First, the government stopped fingerprinting most adults seeking to claim the children. In April 2014, the agency stopped requiring original copies of birth certificates to prove most sponsors’ identities. The next month, it decided not to complete forms that request sponsors’ personal and identifying information before sending many of the children to sponsors’ homes. Then, it eliminated FBI criminal history checks for many sponsors.
Since the rule changes, the AP has identified more than two dozen children who were placed with sponsors who subjected them to sexual abuse, labor trafficking, or severe abuse and neglect.
“This is clearly the tip of the iceberg,” said Jacqueline Bhabha, research director at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. “We would never release domestic children to private settings with as little scrutiny.”
Thorpe has also called for an investigation into the Southwest Key facilities.