New videos have surfaced showing abuse of migrant children in a Southwest Key shelter. The case will be referred to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges will be filed, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
The Arizona Republic obtained surveillance videos through an open records request which show shelter staff members pushing and dragging migrant children. The shelter is operated by Southwest Key, the nation’s largest provider of migrant children shelters.
The incidents shown on the videos occurred at the Hacienda Del Sol shelter in Youngtown, Arizona, in September. They involved three children and numerous shelter staff members.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office originally said they had investigated the allegations and made a determination that no criminal charges were warranted.
But the sheriff’s office released a statement on Sunday saying that they have reconsidered their initial conclusion. It said:
“Based upon the evidence gathered during this thorough investigation, MCSO executive command has made the decision to submit the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for its review and determination of criminal charges.”
The case will be submitted to the county attorney’s office on Monday, the statement said.
Videos show staff members shoving and dragging children in the Southwest Key Hacienda Del Sol facility. The Arizona Department of Health Services this fall had considered revoking the licenses of Southwest Key because they had failed to provide the department with proof it conducts background checks on employees.
One video clip obtained by the Arizona Republic shows a male staffer dragging a young child into the room and pushing him against the wall. There appears to be a confrontation between the two before the male staffer leaves the room.
Another video shows a female staff member pulling a child through the room and attempting to enter another room.
The child lies on the ground and the female staffer drags the child through the doorway as another staff member pulls a different child into the conference room and drags that child into the next room.
Southwest Key issued a statement at the time the incident was reported. It said:
“We wholeheartedly welcomed the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s decision to suspend operations at Hacienda Del Sol and are working to thoroughly retrain our staff.”
“We are simultaneously engaging the Child Welfare Consulting Partnership to do an independent, top to bottom review of our processes, procedures, hiring and training in our Arizona shelters.”
In September we reported that the Trump administration is holding over 12,000 migrant children in custody in shelters. It is imperative that these children, many of whom were separated from their parents or guardians, be taken care of and are not abused. These latest incidents are appalling and indicate that we must have more oversight of shelters holding these migrant children.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.