Senator Brophy McGee leads effort on immigrant youth being sheltered in Arizona
Senator Kate Brophy McGee is leading an effort by state lawmakers to learn more about what's happening in Arizona with unaccompanied minors at facilities in Phoenix and throughout the state. Yesterday she organized a meeting with lawmakers and state agencies to hear from Southwest Key, the non-profit organization running 27 immigrant youth care facilities in Arizona, Texas and California. Southwest Key contracts with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an agency under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The organization is regulated by every level of government and is licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
"There is limited information coming out of these care facilities, largely because of regulations and privacy concerns," said Senator Brophy McGee. "I think it's important we hear firsthand about the facts on the ground. The complex web of federal, state and local oversight only compounds the difficulty of looking into these matters."
Senator Brophy McGee was joined by House Speaker J. D. Mesnard and Representative Jeff Weninger for the briefing by Southwest Key. The Department of Health Services and Department of Child Services were represented, because Senator Brophy McGee feels it's important to facilitate communication with leaders at all levels of government, since coordination will be vital to ensure proper care for these youth.
Although much of the media focus has been on young children separated from their parents, Southwest Key explained that the vast majority of youth in their care are older teens who were sent alone by their parents, to escape a dangerous situation in their home country. Southwest Key provides humanitarian services in a nurturing and homelike environment while the children are in their care. The average stay in one of their homes is 52 days.
The agencies involved say they will stay focused on this important issue and continue to work with legislative leadership.