Tucson police have investigated multiple child molestation incidents at Southwest Key, a northwest side facility that holds undocumented immigrant children who have been separated from their families.
According to police reports obtained from ProPublica, police investigated molestation claims dating to 2014.
Here's an excerpt from the story:
Just five days after he reached the United States, the 15-year-old Honduran boy awoke in his Tucson, Arizona, immigrant shelter one morning in 2015 to find a youth care worker in his room, tickling his chest and stomach.
When he asked the man, who was 46, what he was doing, the man left. But he returned two more times, rubbing the teen's penis through his clothing and then trying to reach under his boxers. "I know what you want, I can give you anything you need," said the worker, who was later convicted of molestation.
In 2017, a 17-year-old from Honduras was recovering from surgery at the shelter when he woke up to find a male staff member standing by his bed. "You have it very big," the man said, referring to the teen's penis. Days later, that same employee brushed the teen with his hand while he was playing video games. When the staff member approached him again, the boy locked himself in a bathroom.
"If you're a predator, it's a gold mine," said Lisa Fortuna, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center, told ProPublica. "You have full access and then you have kids that have already had this history of being victimized."
Southwest Key responded:
We adhere to a strict policy on abuse and neglect, and we take every allegation seriously. If an allegation is made, we immediately suspend the employee involved and report the incident to the state for licensing, Child Protective Services, law enforcement, and ORR, and we cooperate with all investigations. Employees found to violate our standards of care would be terminated.
We are not a detention center. If a child leaves the property, we cannot force them to stay, but we talk to them and we work with law enforcement to ensure their continued safety. We operate fully licensed shelters and self-report issues to invite internal and external investigations to provide the best possible level of care.
U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva released this statement to KGUN9:
"For years, I've denounced the jailing of children and adults in detention centers because they lack the oversight, accountability mechanisms, and adequate resources they need to ensure the safety and security of children and adults. These latest allegations are horrific, disgusting, and continue perpetuating a crisis that the government continually fails to address. We need a full, independent investigation to expose cases of abuse and prosecute those who are responsible."
KGUN9 has reached out to U.S. Rep. Martha McSally for comment.
Southwest Key is located at 1601 N. Oracle Road.