The Trump administration, showing no inclination to reunite children separated from their asylum-seeking parents at the U.S. border, decided to farm out kidnapped youngsters to for-profit detention centers across the United States. The firms that are receiving Trump administration contracts to house children under mentally and physically harmful circumstances have donated generously to Republican coffers.
One for-profit detention company, Southwest Key Programs Inc., is housing children at over a dozen centers, including a vacant Walmart super-store in Brownsville, Texas, which is now known as “Casa Padre.” During fiscal year 2018, Southwest Key Programs saw $458 million in contracts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Southwest Key’s CEO, Juan Sanchez, who is involved in Republican-supported charter school businesses in Texas, earned a salary of $1.5 million in 2016, even though his firm is classified as a “non-profit” company.
Estrella del Norte, a Southwest Key detention center in Tucson, Arizona, saw children physically restrained by staffers after they began hugging each other while crying over being separated from their parents.
Southwest Key whistleblowers, trained in child social work, have revealed that they had insufficient training or resources to deal with traumatized children, a condition, if not dealt with quickly, can lead to “toxic stress” and long-lasting psychological impact known as “adverse childhood experience,” or ACE.
At one federally-contracted child detention facility, the Shiloh Treatment Center, near Houston, reports have emerged of children being administered dangerous psychotropic drugs. The drugs include Latuda, Geodon, and Olanzapine. These and other drugs are resulting in tranquilized children who remain lethargic and non-communicative. The Shiloh contract was let by HHS, which is headed by Alex Azar, the former president of the U.S. division of the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly & Company.
Another DHS contractor, Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center, near Staunton, Virginia, is the subject of a lawsuit alleging incidents of physical and psychotropic drug abuse of migrant children being detained at the facility. Democratic leaders from Virginia, including Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, as well as Governor Ralph Northam, have demanded an accounting from the Trump administration about the reported abuse taking place at the Virginia detention facility.
Another problematic firm making money from the government from migrant child detention is CoreCivic, which decided to change its name from Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA had been discovered to have a history of prisoner abuse, including allowing pregnant inmates to go into labor without medical intervention, thus causing infant death. In 2010, one 18-year old female inmate at the CCA Silverdale Detention Facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, lost her baby after she was denied adequate medical care after going into labor. CCA was discovered to have destroyed video footage of the incident. CivicCore has received $225 million in contracts from U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since Trump became president. The Nashville, Tennessee-based company also donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration ceremony in 2017.
CivicCore’s detention contracts are dwarfed by Geo Group of Florida, which received $560 million from ICE since Trump became president. GEO Group donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration and $225,000 to a Trump political action committee during the 2016 election. Some ICE money was spent on electronic ankle bracelets and other GPS surveillance systems provided by a Geo Group subsidiary called BI Inc., headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. BI Inc.’s government business soared to $115 million in 2017.
Palantir, Inc., a database company owned by Trump donor and supporter Peter Thiel, provides ICE with migrant tracking software capabilities. Two of the firm’s programs, FALCON and GOTHAM, provide “Big Brother” capabilities to ICE surveillance teams. Palantir received a total of $51 million from ICE for software and database support. Thiel donated $1.3 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign and kicked in another $100,000 for Trump’s inauguration. Thiel also served on Trump’s transition team and his firm’s data mining and social media exploitation capabilities are of interest to Justice Department Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigators.
Pentagon contractors have also cashed in on ICE detention activities. These include CSRA LLC of Falls Church, Virginia, (formerly known as Computer Sciences Corporation and SRA International before its acquisition by General Dynamics) and Northrop Grumman, which have received a total of $431 million from the HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) since Trump became president. ORR is largely responsible for scattering children across the United States who are being separated from their parents at the border. Several U.S. airlines, including American, United, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, and Southwest informed the Trump administration that they would not transport children to detention centers. Some Trump supporters threatened the airlines via social media postings, however, there have been no reports of arrests made by law enforcement for such criminal activity.
Comprehensive Health Services (CHS) Inc. of Cape Canaveral, Florida, has received $31 million from ORR to run a 1,000-bed facility at the Homestead Air Reserve Base, south of Miami. Some of those housed at the Homestead facility are infants and toddlers taken from their parents in Texas and transported to south Florida. These kidnapped children are officially known by ICE and HHS as “tender age” detainees.
Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who is running for re-election against Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott—notorious for his Columbia/HCA health care business scamming Medicaid and Medicare out of $1.7 billion, the largest health care fraud case in U.S. history—was denied entry to the CHS detention center in Homestead. CHS has received $600,000 in state funds from the Scott administration.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is also cashing in on the plight of migrant children kidnapped by the Trump administration. A religious non-profit supported by her and her husband’s church, Bethany Christian Services of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has received over 81 migrant children separated from their parents. DeVos’s husband is Dick DeVos, the heir to the Amway fortune. Bethany Christian Services has received large donations from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Mrs. DeVos’s in-laws, and her and her husband’s Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation.
Bethany Christian Services specializes in foster care and adoption services, something that is extremely troubling amid reports that ICE forced several parents to sign “self-deportation” agreements after their children were taken away by the government. Kidnapped children, especially those too young to know their parents, could be trafficked by unscrupulous adoption mills, many of which claim to be “Christian-oriented,” but are money-making scams that have very little to do with Christianity or Jesus. Bethany Christian is one of a number of mega-church frauds that pushes the heretical and non-Christian religious dogma known as the “prosperity gospel.”
The profiting by DeVos on separated children also poses a problem for some of the older boys separated from their parents. DeVos’s brother is Erik Prince, the founder of the infamous mercenary firm Blackwater USA. Prince now runs Reflex Responses (R2), a mercenary firm based in Abu Dhabi that has recruited Spanish-speaking soldiers of fortune from El Salvador, Colombia, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, and Chile to fight in civil wars in Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. Teens between 15 and 17 now being held at DeVos detention facilities are prime candidates for future forced recruitment as R2 mercenaries, something that would constitute a war crime.
For Trump and his cronies, child kidnapping has become a lucrative business. Nothing in modern American politics has been lower.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).