KOLD INVESTIGATES: Inside Tucson’s child immigrant holding facility

KOLD Investigates: Inside the walls of Southwest Key


The situation involving illegal immigrant children detained in our country has made national headlines the last few months.

What many in the public do not know is there is a facility in Tucson that houses about 300 kids.

The public and media aren't allowed inside the Southwest Key facility on Oracle Road.

KOLD Investigator Craig Thomas found another way to shine a light on what goes on inside the walls. He looked through dozens of police reports, which must be filed following incidents.

Here are some of the findings:

April 2015: A report states staff member Oscar Trujillo went into a teen boy's room several times in one night.

According to the report, Trujillo "began rubbing and tickling his stomach...and told the boy 'I know what you want, I can give you anything you need.'"

Trujillo allegedly told the boy "don't tell anyone."

He was fired and convicted in court in 2017.

In that case, a supervisor admitted "they no longer had any surveillance footage of this incident..as it is on a four week loop and recorded over itself several times."

January 2018: A report talked about a potential relationship between a child and a staff member - because that child received love letters that seemed like they were female adults. But nothing was proven - and the investigation was dropped.

Antar Davidson is a Tucsonan who worked at the facility for four months earlier this year. He resigned in June, emailing a supervisor he felt "uneasy about the morality of many practices happening at the facility."

Davidson told KOLD the police reports only tell part of the story.

"You go in there it's like a different world," he said. "They had attempted to keep everything secret. You're not supposed to say anything. They really enforce a secrecy on the employees."

Most of the reports involve incidents where it's child versus child. Davidson said he dealt with one situation that never never made it into a police report, where a boy acted inappropriately with a girl.

"I personally pushed the kid out," Davidson said. "Spoke to the roommate of this girl - multiple times, it was over two days. The first day I said - 'I'll tell someone.' I spoke to the supervisor, and then the next day I came and she told me again. 'He's trying to get in while she's showering. He says he's going to see her without her clothes on.

Davidson said nothing happened, even though he tried to report it.

Looking through all the incidents that did go somewhere, there was one fact that popped up in every single case.

Southwest Key is the legal guardian of these children and often doesn't even know where the kids' parents are.

As part of its guardianship, it is the company's decision if they want to prosecute and how to handle punishment after incidents between kids.

May 2018: A teenage girl claimed she was harassed and assaulted by a teen boy.

She claimed he grabbed "her buttocks six times" in the span of two weeks - and in a classroom "during a project ...with a long tube, XXX made a comment that he wanted to use the tube on her and put it inside of her, put his fingers inside of her, lick her genitals."

Witnesses backed up her statement.

The Southwest Key supervisor cooperated with police, but said they couldn't find any surveillance footage proving the groping. So the supervisor made the decision to keep both the victim and the boy at the facility - with monitoring.

KOLD asked Southwest Key to explain exactly how they monitor the juveniles, as well as how they handle discipline.

They company referred all questions to the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS is paying Southwest Key $458 million this year as part of a three-year contract to handle almost 30 facilities.

HHS did not specifically addressed our questions, but wrote in an e-mail:

 "HHS operates a network of just over 100 shelters in 17 states and has a proven track record of accountability and transparency for program operations, as well as being a good neighbor in the communities where shelters are located.  Any allegation of abuse or neglect is taken seriously and aggressively investigated by ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement.)  Whenever appropriate, swift action is taken to address violations of policy, including initiating employee disciplinary action, termination, and reporting to law enforcement agencies and any relevant licensing bodies."

Davidson said ultimately, it is critical the public gets to see more than just beauty shots and black and white documents.

"Whoa - when you go in there and you see these kids - and you see the way it is," he said. "It's a very shocking and impactful thing."

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