Private Company With Tie to Former Trump Official Is Raking in Big Bucks to Jail Migrant Children

October 4th 2019

President of the United States Donald J. Trump at CPAC 2017 ( Michael Vadon )

President of the United States Donald J. Trump at CPAC 2017 (Michael Vadon)

By Gage Ortiz

Daily Kos

Apparently it’s not enough that the Trump administration has increased the number of detained immigrants, to the glee of for-profit companies that run private prisons, because officials are also seeking to keep growing the “privatization of the care for migrant children,” a joint investigation by the AP and PBS’ Frontline finds—and it’s to the benefit of a company with a direct tie to a former Trump official.

Comprehensive Health Services, owned by parent company Caliburn International Corp., is currently operating six facilities, including so-called tender age jails for babies, and “has plans underway to run a 500-bed shelter in El Paso,” the AP and Frontline say. “So far this year the company has received almost $300 million in contracts to care for migrant kids.”

Sitting on Caliburn’s board of directors is former White House chief of staff John Kelly. “Critics say this means Kelly now stands to financially benefit from a policy he helped create,” but that’s not critics’ opinion—that’s fact: While serving as Homeland Security secretary, Kelly supported his former boss’ racist agenda, once saying that children stolen from their parents “will be taken care of—put into foster care or whatever.” Or whatever.

CHS has also been notorious for winning a no-bid contract to run the prison camp for migrant kids in Homestead, Florida, which at its peak imprisoned thousands, including some separated kids. But while that camp is now empty, that’s only temporary: “Trump administration officials say CHS is keeping the Florida shelter on standby in case they need to quickly provide beds for more migrant teens.” 

“One teenage girl who spoke with AP and FRONTLINE said she and other children were constantly watched while detained inside Homestead, not allowed to touch each other, and there were alarms on the windows. ‘It looks like a camp, but sometimes it seems like a jail because you feel very trapped,’ said the girl, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for her safety.” Experts, including doctors, say that Homestead has been harmful to kids, but administration attorneys have sought to block that testimony in court. 

That’s because it’s obvious that children do not belong in detention, period, and profiting from their jailing is abhorrent. Equally abhorrent is John Kelly. “The United States is the country in the world that detains the most children for immigration reasons, and probably for the longest period of time. No other country comes close,” said Michael Bochenek of Human Rights Watch. “To have private companies move into the area of the care and custody of children in detention-like settings is especially troubling.”

Posted with permission