Shuttered shelter for migrant kids reopens in Phoenix

U.S. & World

FILE- This June 20, 2014 file photo shows the Southwest Key-Nueva Esperanza, in Brownsville, Texas, a facility that shelters unaccompanied immigrant children. A national provider of shelters for immigrant children will reopen one of two Arizona facilities it was forced to shutter last year because of issues with employee background checks. The Arizona Department of Health Services said Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, it approved an application by Southwest Key to reopen a Phoenix facility that can house 420 children. The shelters are for kids who traveled to the U.S. alone or were separated from a relative. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

PHOENIX (AP) — A national provider of shelters for immigrant children has reopened one of two Arizona facilities it was forced to shutter last year because of issues with employee background checks.

The Arizona Department of Health Services said Wednesday it approved an application by Southwest Key to reopen a Phoenix facility that can house up to 420 children. The shelters are for kids who traveled to the U.S. alone or were separated from a relative.

The shelter near downtown Phoenix has reopened after getting approval on Sunday, Southwest Key spokesman Neil Nowlin said.

“There is a continuing need for beds in state licensed facilities, so we remain committed to providing compassionate care, education, recreation, vocational training and access to pro bono legal counsel to the youth in our shelters while our staff works to safely reunite the minors with a sponsor,” Nowlin said in a written statement.

An investigation launched last year by the state’s health department after several reports of abuse found Southwest Key didn’t have fingerprint records for some employees. It temporarily stopped taking in more children, closed two facilities and had to meet other criteria to stay open.

Southwest Key has said it has resolved the issues and it is committed to caring for immigrant youths.

An application to reopen the second shuttered facility where authorities investigated physical abuse but decided not to pursue charges is pending. That facility in Youngtown, Arizona, just outside Phoenix, was closed last year amid reports that staff shoved and dragged unruly children. Videos released to reporters show staffers dragging children on the ground and shoving a boy against a door.

Authorities investigated but decided not to pursue charges, saying there was “no reasonable likelihood of proving” the workers committed a crime.

There have been numerous allegations of sexual abuse at different Southwest Key facilities in Arizona, including one made by the government of El Salvador, which said it received reports of three children, 12 to 17, who were sexually abused at unnamed shelters in the state.

A year ago, police arrested a 33-year-old man on suspicion of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl at the same Southwest Key shelter where just weeks earlier first lady Melania Trump had taken a tour.

The Border Patrol apprehended more than 69,000 people between October and the end of July, a significant spike over the last year.

The government contracts with Southwest Key and other private companies to provide shelter to children while they are reunited with a relative or while their immigration cases play out.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

CBS47 On Your Side

Do you have a problem that you need help solving? Contact CBS47 and let us be On Your Side.

Phone: 559-761-0383
Email: OnYourSide@cbsfresno.com

Don’t Miss

Sunday Service
Best of the Valley
Sunday Morning Matters
MedWatch Today
Hispanic Heritage
The Valley's Armenia
Pros Who Know

Images from Armenia

Small patients in Armenia
Yerevan by night.
Dr. Jeff Thomas delivers.
Dr. Jeff Thomas delivers in Gyumri.
Doctors unpack medical supplies from The Central Valley.
Fresno Medical Mission at work.
Medical Supplies being unloaded.
Fresno Medical Mission at the ready.
KSEE24 crew witnesses the miracle of life in Gyumri, Armenia.
Life saving work of Central Valley surgeons in Armenia.
Ribbon cutting on new surgical center in Ashtarak Armenia. Fresno donors made this dream come true.
KSEE24 on assignment with the Fresno Medical Mission
Honorary Consulate to Armenia Berj Apkarian explains the crisis facing one hospital.
KSEE24's Stefani Booroojian and Kevin Mahan at the meeting with President Bako Sahakyan.
Medical Meeting in Artsakh.
The President of Artsakh meets with the Fresno Medical Mission.
Learning modern medicine techniques with the Fresno Medical Mission in surgery.
Leaning in for a look. Dr. Brien Tonkinson holds class and helps a patient in Armenia.
Fresno Medical Mission cares on one of the smallest patients in the region. Six-year old Yanna receives life-changing better breathing surgery.