It wasn’t just the head of the “nonprofit” federally contracted to detain migrant children—including those stolen from their families the border—who was receiving a fat paycheck for his “work.” In addition to Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez’s $3.6 million salary from 2017-2018, The Washington Post has identified five other top executives who received salaries of more than $1 million in 2017, far eclipsing “the maximum amount of grant money that the government allows migrant shelters to use to pay an employee, which was $189,600 last year.”
Tax records “showed that other prominent employees—including the group’s chief financial officer, who earned more than $2.4 million—were earning substantial, seven-figure salaries there.” Sanchez’s wife, Jennifer, was not among them but was surely no less pleased with her direct deposit: $500,000. “Three of the other officials who earned at least $1 million in 2017 also have left the group, according to an official at Southwest Key who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to comment,” The Washington Post continues.
Sanchez, who resigned in March, may be touting the more humble beginnings of Southwest Key—“he started Southwest Key in Texas about 32 years ago to help juvenile delinquents stay out of jail”—but something has gone terribly wrong in his mission since: By early summer 2018, Southwest Key had converted a former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, to hold children stolen from their parents at the border by the Trump administration. When a sitting U.S. senator, Jeff Merkley, tried to enter the facility to speak to the children, staffers there called the cops on him.
Child detention “has proved to be very lucrative: The nonprofit”—their word, not ours—“organization has an annual contract of about $460 million to house children, and it has collected more than $1 billion since 2014, according to federal records.” With the company mired in accusations of self-dealing and abusive conditions within its facilities, a number of senior executives quit en masse, while Sanchez’s wife, Jennifer, remained as of March.
There should be no profiting off the misery of children, and Southwest Key will argue that it’s providing an important service to kids, because the alternative would be to keep them jailed in inhumane Border Patrol facilities unfit for a dog. But children sent to Southwest Key shouldn’t have been there in the first place—they should have been with their parents in freedom. The government contracts with Southwest Key—funded with out tax dollars—must end. And they know they’re in the wrong: When I called out their shady practices on Twitter, they blocked me.
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