Using state public-records laws, The Arizona Republic has obtained video from surveillance cameras showing staff at a now-shuttered Southwest Key shelter for migrant children in Arizona physically dragging and pushing children in their care. But authorities determined that the physical aggression used against the children last September does not constitute a crime.
This week, Splinter’s Samantha Grasso reported that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office closed three cases of child abuse reported at the Hacienda Del Sol children’s shelter, operated by Southwest Key in Youngtown, Arizona, after only reviewing security camera footage and without interviewing the Southwest Key employees allegedly involved or the minors reported to have been abused.
In the videos obtained by the Republic, incidents that occurred on Sept. 14, 17, and 21 involved shelter staff dragging, pulling, and slapping a young boy, and dragging another child against their will. The videos are blurred to protect the identities of the children.
According to the report, the shelter reported the incidents to authorities at the time.
On Friday, a spokesman from the sheriff’s office reiterated that it had found no cause for filing criminal charges after reviewing the videos, the newspaper said.
“(T)he investigation determined that while physical force and restraint techniques were used against these minor children, these actions did not rise to the level of criminal charges,” Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez said in a statement reported by the Republic.
Hacienda Del Sol was one of two shelters operated by Southwest Key that had their licenses canceled last October. Arizona health officials had threatened to pull all 13 licenses the company held to operate shelters in the state after it was discovered that Southwest Key failed to perform appropriate background checks on employees.
Earlier this month, a New York Times investigation revealed that Southwest Key has become a multimillion-dollar operation with its owner, Juan Sanchez, building “an empire on the back of a crisis.” Southwest Key Programs now shelters more migrant children than any other program in the country, collecting $1.7 billion in federal grants over the last decade. Over $620 million of that was secured in the last year alone.
According to the Times, Sanchez was paid $1.5 million last year, and Southwest Key “has created a web of for-profit companies — construction, maintenance, food services and even a florist — that has funneled money back to the charity through high management fees and helps it circumvent government limits on executive pay.”
The Times also reported earlier this month that the Justice Department is now investigating Southwest Key. Per the Times:
The United States attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas is examining the finances of Southwest Key, based in Austin, and whether it misappropriated government money, according to the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the inquiry. Prosecutors on the case are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.