- Several videos from a migrant shelter in Arizona appear to show staff members dragging, pushing, and slapping young children.
- The shelter was closed in September, but local authorities are investigating the incident.
- The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office originally said the actions “did not rise to the level of criminal charges,” but the office told INSIDER it has referred the case to the county attorney.
Several videos appearing to show staffers at an Arizona shelter dragging, pushing, and slapping young migrant children are being reviewed for possible criminal charges, Maricopa County authorities say.
Three videos have sparked outcry after The Arizona Republic first published them last week. One shows a male staffer dragging a young boy through a room and pushing him up against a wall, then slapping him after the child hits back.
Another shows a staffer forcing a child through a doorway, yanking on the child’s arm as the child writhes on the ground, while a second staffer drags another child by the arms over to the same doorway. The third video shows some type of commotion in a classroom-like room, though the details are unclear.
The videos, captured by surveillance cameras, were blurred by the Arizona Department of Health Services to protect the children’s privacy, according to The Arizona Republic. The newspaper obtained the videos through a public records request.
Watch the videos below:
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incidents and originally told The Arizona Republic that the staff members’ actions shown in the video “did not rise to the level of criminal charges.”
But after a further investigation, which included forensic interviews with the children in the videos and a review of hundreds of hours of surveillance footage, the sheriff’s office told INSIDER on Wednesday that it decided to refer the case to the county attorney.
“We are working with MCAO to determine if all aspects of the potential allegations were thoroughly investigated,” Sheriff Paul Penzone said in a statement to INSIDER. “We must determine if all criminal violations were considered or if further review is necessary.”
The facility was part of a network of shelters a nonprofit runs
The facility, Hacienda Del Sol, was part of a network of shelters run by Southwest Key, a nonprofit that has attracted scrutiny in recent months for the role it played in housing migrant children at the height of the Trump administration’s family separations.
The Southwest Key shelter that drew the most attention was Southwest Key’s Casa Padre facility in Brownsville, Texas, which was converted from a Walmart building to house 1,500 migrant boys.
Southwest Key closed Arizona’s Hacienda Del Sol shelter in October, after a settlement with state regulators over the nonprofit’s reported failure to prove that its workers received background checks.
The nonprofit fired two staffers and disciplined others after internally investigating the Hacienda Del Sol incidents, CNN reported, citing a source with direct knowledge of the situation. A Southwest Key spokesman also told CNN they self-reported the incidents to local police and federal agencies.
“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,” Southwest Key spokesman Jeff Eller said in an October statement sent to INSIDER on Wednesday. “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.”
- Read more of INSIDER’s immigration coverage:
- ‘We’ve seen this coming’: Why migrant children are dying in Border Patrol custody
- The mother of an 8-year-old migrant boy who died in Border Patrol custody says he wasn’t sick on his journey to the US
- Trump threatens to close the border over a new caravan forming in Honduras that reportedly isn’t even headed for the US
- Border Patrol is getting help from the Coast Guard, Pentagon, and CDC for migrant children in custody, after an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died
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