Southwest Key Has Earned $1 Billion Running Immigrant Detention Facilities

“They view themselves as a nonprofit, humanitarian aid organization.”

By Alexandra HartJune 22, 2018 7:04 am

“Sheltering kids apprehended at the border isn’t a multi-million dollar business – it’s a billion dollar business.”

So begins a compelling story by Manny Fernandez, who reports from Texas for The New York Times. He has been at the border covering this story. Fernandez says that for years, many contractors have run facilities that host detained immigrants.

“They pay for everything from beds to food,” Fernandez says. “And all of that adds up. And it’s added up over the years where just one of these contractors… has received nearly $1 billion in the last three fiscal years.”

Southwest Key is that contractor. The company is a nonprofit whose CEO made $700,000 in one year, Fernandez says.

“They view themselves as a nonprofit, humanitarian aid organization,” he says. “They do other work. They don’t deal just with immigrant youth. They are responding to hurricanes and earthquakes and doing other types of humanitarian aid.”

Fernandez says that the facilities where immigrant children have been photographed in cages are not operated by Southwest Key.

“Border patrol runs those facilities, and that’s how they temporarily detain the immigrants that they have,” he says.

In the Rio Grande Valley, where many Southwest Key facilities are located, many communities are dependent on the jobs the company provides, and the detention facilities are physically connected to the community. Fernandez says a San Benito shelter he visited appears to be a former school and it’s located in a residential neighborhood.

“They have this very bizarre ‘we’re here and we’re not here,’” he says. “We’re in a giant Walmart, but there’s barricades in the parking lot, and you can’t just walk in. And they’re not very quick to talk publicly about how they care for the kids, and what exactly goes on there.”

Written by Shelly Brisbin.