- Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly set off a firestorm of ethics concerns when it was announced he would be joining the board of a company that detains migrant children.
- Kelly, who left the White House in December 2018, was at the front of the administration’s policies that separated migrant children from their families at the border.
- Several lawmakers condemned the move as corruption, but current laws only constrain certain lobbying activities, so Kelly is technically in the clear to profit off a policy he pushed.
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Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly set off a firestorm of ethics concerns when it was announced he would be joining the board of a company that operates the nation’s largest facility that houses migrant children.
Kelly was central in the administration separating migrant children from their families, sending them to government-contracted shelters like one owned by Caliburn International.
The Homestead, Florida facility previously came under fire for holding children in what some members of Congress have described “prison-like” conditions.
CEO James Van Dusen said in a statement that Kelly was a “strong strategic addition” to the board, which he said remains focused on the “safety and welfare of unaccompanied minors who have been entrusted to our care and custody.”
However, the announcement triggered several condemnations against Kelly, who some top Democrats said would be profiting off the policies he introduced in the administration.
Massachusetts Sen.Elizabeth Warren led the charge, saying in a tweet that Kelly taking the spot on the board would be “corruption at its absolute worst,” as Kelly would be making “big bucks” from a policy he facilitated.
“John Kelly oversaw many of the Trump Admin’s most morally repugnant immigration policies,” Warren said. “Now he could be making big bucks serving on the Board of a company that’s profiting from the same cruel plans he put in place. This is corruption at its absolute worst.”
Current laws only prevent former members of the administration from certain lobbying activities, not outside work.
Tracey Valerio, a top official responsible for Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracting, resigned in April 2018 and became a paid expert witness in a lawsuit to defend a private prison and immigration detention company that was the agency’s biggest contractor, according to a Daily Beast report.
Warren added that she would continue pushing for a law that would prevent “senior govt officials from leaving & immediately getting paid by firms they gave contracts to,” but “in the meantime, Kelly should try & save what’s left of his reputation by resigning from Caliburn’s board.”
The Associated Press reported that before he joined the White House, Kelly was a board member with the private equity firm behind the contracting conglomerate.
Kelly was the first official to reveal that the government was considering separating families in a March 2017 CNN interview when he was still serving as Homeland Security secretary.
In addition to other policies, Kelly said he would consider separation among “almost anything to deter the people from Central America to getting on this very, very dangerous network that brings them up through Mexico into the United States.”
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