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Arizona steps up investigation of the shelter for immigrant children, after employees accused of sex crimes

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has given inspections of all facilities in the state run by Southwest Key, the non-profit organization that collected hundreds of millions of dollars per year from the federal government to house immigrant children.

The order follows the arrest of the workers at shelters housing migrant children. The employees are accused of sexual abuse of the children.

Ducey ordered inspections for each of the 13 facilities that Southwest Key works in Arizona, according to a CBS affiliate in Phoenix.

Cara Christ, the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told the CBS affiliate her office has visited Southwest Key shelters in the last few months for the follow-up of reports of abuse or other forms of abuse.

“We have already since June to investigate the various allegations that have been showing up,” she said. “We are now already a number of these facilities a couple of times.”

Many of the more than 2,000 children who were separated from their parents after crossing the border illegally are held in the Southwest of the Major amenities. The non-profit, which is based in Texas houses immigrant children in 26 shelters in Texas, California and Arizona.

The federal government claims to be a former youth care worker at a Southwest Key shelter for immigrant youth in Arizona sexually abused eight boys, one of the many cases brought to light in the past few weeks, thousands of immigrant children continue to be held throughout the country.

Court documents show Levian Pacheco faces several charges arising from the incidents that allegedly took place between August 2016 and July 2017 at a Southwest Key facility in Mesa. The case was first reported by ProPublica.

Authorities charged Pacheco performed sexual acts on two boys and hit six others, all between the ages of 15 and 17 at the time. Court documents also state Pacheco is HIV-positive, and that some of the young people who chose to be tested for the virus.

Pacheco has pleaded not guilty, and denied the allegations. His federal public prosecutor said in the court documents of the government, the allegations include an “extraordinarily wide range of dates and the lack of specificity.”

“We look forward to defending Mr. Pacheco in the court,” lawyer Benjamin Good said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The revelations came on the heels of another report about an employee at a other Southwest Key facility, Fernando Magaz Negrete, who is suspected of the murder of a 14-year-old immigrant girl.

The authorities say that Magaz Negrete kissed and fondled the girl in her bedroom on June 27, in a meeting witnessed the girl’s 16-year-old roommate. They said surveillance video shows Magaz Negrete, 32, approaching the bedroom a number of times during the night, although the bedroom itself was outside the camera’s view.

Southwest Key dismissed Magaz Negrete. It was not clear whether he is represented by a lawyer.

The efforts of Fox News to reach Ducey’s spokesman were not successful.

Southwest Key spokesman Jeff Eller told Fox News in a statement that Pacheco was immediately suspended and the police were called when allegations surfaced.

As for Negrete, a statement said: “If a child tells us of inappropriate behavior, we immediately contact law enforcement and start an internal investigation, to the right. That is what happened in this case. Southwest Key works with the law enforcement to bring the full force of the law to bear when it is needed.”

Southwest Key said: “Our number one priority at Southwest Key Programs to the children in our care safe. We have a solid infrastructure of both preventative and responsive measures to ensure their safety.”

“In addition to the research and the training of our employees, we educate each child in our care, of their right to be free from abuse or neglect in our program and in this country,” the statement said. “This message is shared with them upon arrival, and repeated to the children during the entire duration of their stay in our shelters.”

The non-profit said that when there is a report of possible abuse, warns the federal and state agencies that have a role in such shelters.

The victims in the case against Pacheco were all unaccompanied minors. It is not clear whether they were separated from their parents or traveled to the united states only, although the government was not on a large scale separation of families at the time of the incidents.

The CBS report said that the Arizona State Rep. Kelli Butler says she’s drafting a measure aimed at tightening the supervision of the south-West of the Major amenities. Butler wants the Southwestern part of the Key to report crimes to the Arizona Department of Health Services as well as to the police.

“We are working on legislation to try to close that loophole and make sure that the Ministry of Health to know when these accusations are made,” Butler said. “They need to know.”

The Associated Press contibuted to this report.

Elizabeth Llorente is a Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.

 

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