A Latino Nonprofit Is Holding Separated Kids. Is That Care Or Complicity Or Both?

Southwest Key has, for many years, operated shelters that house unaccompanied migrant children. The family separation policy shined a spotlight on that work, and raised uncomfortable questions.
The Casa Padre facility in Brownsville, Texas, is one of more than two dozen shelters for immigrant children operated by Southwest Key Source: Department of Health and Human Services

Kandace Vallejo thought she knew Southwest Key Programs: a big nonprofit based in Austin, Texas. Runs a charter school. Works with youth.

And holds thousands of migrant children in facilities paid for by the U.S. government.

That was news.

"I was a little bit shocked," Vallejo says of when she found out a few weeks ago. As founding executive director of another Austin nonprofit, Youth Rise Texas, she works with children whose families have been separated by incarceration or deportation — including some kids who go to a Southwest Key charter school. "I feel like I should have known sooner."

Southwest Key has been running shelters for unaccompanied migrant children for two decades, without drawing much attention. In some instances, the shelters were described admiringly.

Today, Southwest Key has 26 shelters in Texas, Arizona and California, housing more than 5,100 immigrant minors. That's about half of the total population in the custody

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