Patrick Feller from Humble, Texas, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

August 5, 2019; Houston Chronicle

Being a full-on nonprofit handmaiden to the federal government in its most evil endeavors may be lucrative at times, but the work’s not exactly steady and it earns you no respect among peers.

For those readers who don’t remember, Southwest Key is one of the nonprofits that accepted government contracts to run shelters for migrant children separated from their parents by the US government. The Houston Chronicle reports that in 2018, Southwest Key’s revenue from these contracts totaled over $400 million.

Last week, Southwest Key Programs Inc. notified the Texas Workforce Commission that they would terminate two of their leases “due to the unexpected loss of federal funding.”

Their “leases” refer to the space used for the shelters. Reporters at the New York Times explained how the nonprofit “lent millions of dollars to real estate developers, acting more like a bank than a traditional charity. It has rented shelters rather than buying them, an unusual practice that has proved lucrative for shelter owners.”

Children currently housed at the Conroe and Harlington shelters will be moved to other facilities, according to a statement from Southwest Key; about 200 shelter employees, who are not union members, will be let go. The Brownsville Herald says the two shelters house about 230 children.

These issues follow on the heels of others. In March, as NPQ reported, two of Southwest Key’s leaders, including founder Juan Sanchez, resigned following allegations and investigations of mismanagement and malfeasance. Sanchez’s wife remains employed, with a half-million-dollar salary. In fact, some of its peers appear to revile the organization; nonprofits like Youth Rise Texas have refused to work with the organization because they see the operation as profiteering off the suffering of children.

And while Southwest Key was shedding some of its more scandal-prone leaders, it was still opening facilities to house more kids. After six months of legal and permitting issues, it was awarded a permit to open the Casa Sunzal shelter in Houston, even though the mayor was opposed to the plan.

Fernando Del Valle at the Brownsville Herald reports, “Last summer, the Texas Education Agency announced it will stop allowing school districts to use state money to educate migrant children in federal detention. The state’s decision led to a major loss of federal money.”

And just last week, the ACLU alleged that even though the administration supposedly ended the policy of family separation last year, more than 900 children have been separated from their families since. So we won’t weep for Southwest Key, but the children in whose imprisonment they have been complicit.—Erin Rubin