ARIZONA NEWS

Former worker criticizes conditions at Arizona facility for immigrant youth

Jun 18, 2018, 3:14 PM | Updated: Jun 21, 2018, 1:55 pm
(Screenshot/MSNBC)...
(Screenshot/MSNBC)
(Screenshot/MSNBC)

PHOENIX — A former youth worker at an Arizona facility for migrant children says he quit the job after a few months because he was being put “in situations where I would have to work against my morals.”

In the incident that was the catalyst for his decision to leave the job, Antar Davidson was asked to communicate in Portuguese with three Brazilian children who were crying and clasping each other because they were being placed in separate rooms.

“I was called over the radio to help translate to tell them that they weren’t allowed to hug,” Davidson told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes on Monday.

Davidson, who is of Brazilian descent, worked as an English and vocational teacher at Estrella del Norte in Tucson.

He said the facility, which houses between 280 and 300 kids, is understaffed, and much of the staff isn’t properly qualified to handle the complexities of working with children who don’t understand their situation.

“These kids are traumatized from where they’re from — that’s why they’re leaving,” Davidson said. “They’re traumatized on their journey — we’ve all heard stories on what happens on this journey. And then they’re traumatized now at the border, and traumatized even a fourth time at the facility.”

He said many co-workers came from fields such as retail, construction and restaurants, and their main qualification was being bilingual.

“There’s a heavy burden placed on workers who are mostly making $15 an hour with no benefits,” he said. “It’s a very … disastrous combination of factors.”

Estrella del Norte is one of 26 facilities for unaccompanied immigrant children operated by Southwest Key Programs in Texas, Arizona and California.

According to Southwest Key’s website, the Texas-based nonprofit organization’s shelters take care of kids while arrangements are made to reunite them with relatives in the United States or their home country.

A Southwest Key spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that Estrella del Norte meets state licensing requirements, including for staffing ratios and training.

“Our staff have great expertise in dealing with this population,” Cindy Casares said. “We have very high professional development standards.”

Conditions at facilities like the ones operated by Southwest Key have come under increased scrutiny since the Trump Administration implemented a zero-tolerance policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution and separates children from parents in custody.

Under the policy, nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(AP Photo/Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, File)...
Danny Shapiro

Women’s health providers in Arizona halting abortions following Supreme Court ruling

Some women's health providers in Arizona are halting abortions following Friday's Supreme Court ruling that stripped away constitutional protections for women and left decisions on their legality to the states.
16 hours ago
Rusty French, left, is accused of killing Pamela Rae Martinez on June 11, 2022, in Glendale, Arizon...
KTAR.com

Man arrested after police find his photo on slain Glendale woman’s cellphone

Police have made an arrest in the fatal shooting of a Glendale woman who photographed the suspect before her death.
16 hours ago
People protest about abortion, Friday, June 24, 2022, outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP ...
KTAR.com

Arizona’s political leaders react to Supreme Court abortion ruling

Many of Arizona's political leaders at the state and federal levels shared their reactions to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday.
16 hours ago
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)...
Monica Lindstrom

Legally Speaking: Abortion no longer a constitutional right, states to make decision

Roe and Casey are overturned. There is no longer a constitutional right to abortion. However, the question of whether an abortion is legal has reverted back to the states for each of them to decide on their own.
16 hours ago
Anti-abortion activists react to the 6-3 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization whi...
Kevin Stone

What does Roe v. Wade reversal mean for Arizona abortion law?

Now that the Supreme Court has put abortion law authority in the hands of the states, what does it mean for Arizona?
16 hours ago
(Arizona Capitol Museum Photo)...
Associated Press

Arizona legislators push final bills as adjournment looms

The Arizona Legislature was moving Thursday night to vote on a flurry of bills lawmakers need to clear off their desks so they can adjourn for the year.
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Former worker criticizes conditions at Arizona facility for immigrant youth