Gallego requests federal investigation into abuse of migrant children
PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker requested an investigation into whether facilities commissioned by the government are doing enough to prevent the migrant children in their custody from being physically or sexually abused.
The request from U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego to Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson came on the same day that a 32-year-old former Southwest Key employee was arrested for allegedly molesting a 14-year-old girl at a Phoenix facility.
Gallego pointed to a news report from ProPublica that revealed “repeated instances of physical and sexual abuse” at 70 of the approximately 100 Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters nationwide as one of the reasons why the investigation was needed.
“What we have seen so far at these facilities is there have been instances of children being preyed upon and sexually assaulted, so we are asking for accountability from these facilities,” Gallego said in an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM.
“These children are wards of the state, which means we are responsible for them,” he added.
“We pay these facilities and their job is to keep them safe and secure.”
Gallego said he would like to know how the facilities deal with incidents of alleged sexual and physical abuse, whether the victims undergo therapy, what deterrents are there — if any — to prevent abuse and what the steps and processes are to inform the public and police of the abuse.
“We want to know that these companies are responsible while children are in their care,” he said.
“We want to do everything we can to prevent (abuse from) happening to other kids.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report.