Videos show staff dragging, shoving children at immigrant shelter


Surveillance videos obtained by the Arizona Republic show migrant children being slapped, pushed and dragged by employees at a since-shuttered shelter run by embattled shelter provider Southwest Key Programs.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office told CBS News it investigated the incidents and chose to submit the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

After the videos were published, the sheriff's office, which said the videos did not warrant criminal charges a day earlier, said it would now refer the incidents to prosecutors.

The Republic said Southwest Key reported the incidents, which involved three children and numerous staffers, to local, state and federal authorities, but it wasn't clear whether the incidents were what led to the federal intervention.

The company, which has federal contracts to house and care for migrant children found crossing the border, later agreed to close the Youngtown location and one in Phoenix as part of a larger settlement with the state.

Disturbing video has revealed the horrific treatment migrant children suffered at the hands of staffers at an Arizona shelter that was later shut down by the government.

The compromising videos were obtained by sending an open records request to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The shelter, known as Hacienda del Sol, was operated by Southwest Key and located in the metro Phoenix area before it was closed in October.

In one video, you can see a male staffer drag a child into a room, then slapping the child as he pushes him against a well.

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The facility closed a month later, and a source says two staff members were fired.

The sheriff's department investigated "several allegations of child abuse and assault on minors occurring on September 14th, 17th, and the 21st of 2018", according to a statement from their office.

"These are vulnerable children in hard circumstances", the agency said in a statement.

Mr Eller added: "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".

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office initially told CNN it investigated the allegations but determined the actions did not rise to the level of criminal charges.

In August, police arrested a 33-year-old man on suspicion of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl at the same Southwest Key shelter where just weeks earlier first lady Melania Trump had taken a tour.

The agreement Southwest Key made with the state health department this year came after it failed to get the proper fingerprint clearance from all employees on time.

A former youth care worker was convicted in September of sexually abusing seven teenage boys at a Phoenix shelter for immigrant children.