Southwest Key Unaccompanied Minor Shelters Begins Layoffs in Response To Trump Border Trickle

Human trafficking victims await processing at the Nogales Border Patrol Station in 2013. [ADI photo]

For residents of the fifth poorest metropolitan area in the Country, human smuggling has provided much needed jobs through agencies such as Southwest Key. On Thursday, Southwest Key employees were informed that due to the actions of President Donald Trump, they would be facing lay-offs.

Employees were informed of the pending cuts by none other than “El President” Juan Sanchez, the founder of the profitable not-for-profit Southwest Key. According to sources, El President will allow his employees to enjoy Cinco Mayor celebrations today, but they will meet tomorrow to face the music.

In 2014, Southwest Key was awarded over $7 million for the Tucson facility.

The grant reads:

Funding is requested from the Services to Unaccompanied Alien Children Program, to provide shelter care services as outlined in this proposal up to 280 unaccompanied alien children referred by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Administration for Children and Families, DHHS. Shelter care services will be provided at a short year budget from June, 29, 2014 through September 30, 2014, at an estimated cost of $7,479,210. View document here.

The $7 million covers everything from travel for executives to “multicultural crayons.”

According to the Arizona Department of Education, Southwest key has been contracting with the Department‘s Health and Nutrition Services Division, for the last 10 years.

The Tucson grant reads:

Food cost is calculated at $8.65 per day per client. We provide three meals per day and two snacks; our food service program meets the USDA guidelines for nutritional content and serving size. This program will be contracted with the Arizona Department of Education to participate in the National School Lunch Program which will provide a reimbursement of $5.51 per day per client to cover food expenses. Southwest Key also uses a number of resources for donated food, which are used to supplement this amount and to produce additional cost savings. This item also includes the travel costs in the amount of $600 for the NSLP accountant to provide a mandatory training and monitoring of the administrative requirements for submitting claims for the National School Lunch Program specifically related to SWK Casa Tucson.

The grant included $ 1,500 for pool cleaning for three months.

The email reads:

Dear UM Program Staff,

Earlier this week, we received some important news from our funder, the Office of Refugee Resettlement. As you know, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border into the United States has dramatically decreased in 2017 and our shelter programs are operating well below capacity. In January, there were more than 3000 children being housed at Southwest Key’s UM shelters and by the end of April, there were a little over 800. For this reason, ORR has made the decision to reduce capacity by 20 percent by May 31st for all shelters with more than fifty beds. Regrettably, this means that Southwest Key Programs must cut staff by 20 percent at all our shelters with more than fifty beds. It’s rare that we have to lay off employees from Southwest Key and it pains me to do it. ORR also recognizes that this puts a strain on providers as it makes it more difficult to re-hire capable and qualified employees. However, it’s not feasible to maintain the amount of staff we currently employ with so many unutilized beds.

The UM Program leadership and I are discussing the details of carrying out this mandate and we will be in touch with you about it soon. This is a difficult time with no easy answers, but please know that the effort you put into carrying out the mission of Southwest Key Programs is deeply appreciated and we should remain positive in service of the children. If you have any questions, please reach out to your Program Director or Regional Executive Director.


Dr. Juan J. Sánchez
CEO/El Presidente
Southwest Key Programs

Southwest Key’s website used to be filled with “career opportunities” for their multiple sites in Arizona. Now, some sites have zero job listings.

The Tucson shelter served up to three hundred Unaccompanied Minors and adults posing as minors on a daily basis during the border surge.

Despite complaints of abuse by social workers since 2014 of Southwest key clients, Arizona officials looked the other way due in part to the mostly low-wage jobs Southwest Key provided Arizona, which had been hard hit by the Great Recession.

In fact, only now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Sen. Chuck Grassley showed any concern about the trafficking of the children lured to the U.S. by profiteers. Sessions’ work on this issue confirmed reports from Southwest Key employees that minors were being handed over to cartel members to be sold into slave labor.

In Arizona, Rep. Bob Thorpe sought assistance for the social workers and children but ran into a brick wall put up by Governor Doug Ducey. And who could blame him, ask Capitol insiders. The state has been one of the slowest to recover from the Great Recession and Southwest Key shelters brought in millions of federal dollars to the state.

Unlike the governor, who views the minors in terms of money, many Southwest key workers have dedicated themselves to caring for the victims of the human traffickers. They have brought supplies, including bibles to the children, who fled violent countries only to be raped and otherwise abused by predators along the way. Those same employees have questioned the U.S. policy that acted as a lure for desperate families. They have repeatedly questioned why the U.S. government has not sent social workers and other professionals to Guatemala, and Honduras, from where most of the minors hail.

As the ADI reported in December 2015, whistleblowers claimed that the minors in the care of Southwest Key were allowed to call home once a week. “During those calls to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, the minor children often encourage siblings and other family members to arrive at the U.S. Mexico border and specifically request placement in a Southwest Key facility. Federal policy dictates that minors are not turned away and are quickly processed to a limited extent and then delivered to the shelters across the southwest.”

Before Trump took office, the Tucson shelter had nearly 300 employees, according to sources. Southwest Key began laying off part-time employees after his inauguration.

Since Trump took office, cross border traffic has slowed to a trickle. Now the cuts are hitting the professional staff members.

Drugs continue to flow across the border, but abused children remain in their corrupt countries rather than seeking shelter in the corrupt state of Arizona.

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