The federal Health and Human Services Department administers the national network of shelters for undocumented children and teens who arrive unaccompanied at the border, or are separated from their parents when detailed.
But the three facilities in San Diego County are actually run by a huge, non-profit agency headquartered in Austin, Texas.
Southwest Key Programs runs what it calls “shelters” for undocumented immigrant children, “youth justice alternatives” and education programs in eight states.
The charity was founded more than 30 years ago, by Juan Sanchez, who according to the agency’s website, grew up in the hardscrabble Texas border city of Brownsville.
“Shaped by his experiences as a young migrant worker, he grew up determined to spend his life helping as many people as he could to escape poverty…” the website notes.
Sanchez said he has a Ph.D. in education from Harvard, and was one of the first Hispanics to earn a doctorate in that course of study at the Ivy League university.
According to the charity’s most recent IRS filing, Southwest Key generated more than $240 million in revenue in 2015. Almost all of that revenue came from government grants and contracts.
The IRS document also reveals Sanchez made almost $800,000 in salary, bonuses, incentives and other compensation in 2015.
Southwest Key’s chief financial officer, Melody Chung, was paid $546,000 total compensation that year.
State of California records show the first of three local facilities was licensed in 1999.
Those shelters in El Cajon, Lemon Grove and San Diego have a combined maximum capacity of 90 children and teens, ages 6-17. Boys are sent to the El Cajon facility, which houses 65 clients. Girls are houses at the other two group homes.
All three facilities have been inspected since March.
The Lemon Grove facility was inspected May 25. According to that report, the facility has five bedrooms for ten children, with two single beds in each room.
The inspector noted that breakfast is cooked in the facility’s kitchen, but lunch and dinner are prepared at another facility and delivered to the Lemon Grove shelter.
The inspector noted that the group home appeared clean, safe and well-maintained, with just two minor deficiencies: the hot water was not hot enough, and surfaces around the bathtubs needed cleaning. According to the inspection report, the program director will make repairs and provide documentation that those problems have been fixed.