State Watch

Arizona authorities send prosecutors findings on since-shuttered migrant shelter


Authorities in Arizona have sent county prosecutors the results of an investigation into a since-shuttered migrant shelter where videos showed children dragged and pushed about by staffers.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Monday that it investigated “several allegations of child abuse and assault” occurring on Sept. 14, 17 and 21 at Hacienda del Sol, a shelter that closed in October.

{mosads}The sheriff’s office then submitted the results of that investigation to country prosecutors, who will determine possible criminal charges.

“Based upon the evidence gathered during this thorough investigation, MCSO executive command has made the decision to submit the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for its review and determination of criminal charges,” the sheriff’s office said in its statement.

The Arizona Republic last week published videos showing staffers at the shelter dragging, pulling and shoving children. The videos involved three separate children. 

In one video, a staffer can be seen pulling a child into a room and shoving the child into a wall. The staffer can also be seen hitting the child.

Another video shows a different staff member pulling a child through a room and then forcefully dragging the child out of the room. Another staffer can be seen in the video pulling a child by the arms through the same room.

Before closing in October, the shelter was operated by Southwest Key. Southwest Key previously came under scrutiny from regulators for not administering background checks on some of its employees.

Southwest Key agreed to close two shelters, including the Hacienda del Sol shelter, after the state originally threatened to shutter all 13 of its locations, according to the Arizona Republic.

The move to refer the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges marked a reversal by local authorities, who previously said the actions shown in the video didn’t call for criminal charges.

“(T)he investigation determined that while physical force and restraint techniques were used against these minor children, these actions did not rise to the level of criminal charges,” Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez said in a statement to the Arizona Republic last week. 

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said in a statement Monday that his is working with prosecutors to “determine if all aspects of the potential allegations were thoroughly investigated.”

“We must determine if all criminal violations were considered or if further review is necessary,” he added. 

The investigation into the shelter comes as the treatment of migrant children at the border is meeting with increased scrutiny. In recent weeks, two Guatemalan children — Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo — have died while in Customs and Border Protection custody.

See all Hill.TV See all Video