Austin-based Southwest Key Programs, the nation’s largest provider of facilities for detaining migrant children on behalf of the Trump administration, announced Monday that its founder and CEO Juan Sanchez will retire, the Austin American-Statesman reports. “Recent events have convinced me that Southwest Key would benefit from a fresh perspective and new leadership,” Sanchez said. “Widespread misunderstanding of our business and unfair criticism of our people has become a distraction our employees do not deserve. It’s time for new beginnings.” Sanchez founded Southwest Key Programs in 1987 and is one of the nation’s highest-paid nonprofit executives. The nonprofit collects hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to run facilities along the southern border.
Southwest Key operates two dozen shelters for migrant children in Texas, Arizona and California. It also offers education and counseling programs for children and runs charter schools. Southwest Key came under fire as the Trump administration detained more immigrants and conducted large-scale separations of families last year, pushing children into the organization’s facilities. The number of children held by Southwest Key grew to 5,000 last year. The firm received $523 million in government funding from January to September. In June, a protest outside Sanchez’s house in Austin called on him to stop housing migrant families. Last month, a woman climbed the walls of the Southwest Key headquarters and stayed there for eight hours to protest. The nonprofit considered ending its relationship with the federal government over Trump’s “zero tolerance policy,” but decided against it, saying it would help the children who had been separated by continuing its work. The New York Times reported in December that federal prosecutors were examining Southwest Key’s finances. The Times said the nonprofit “stockpiled taxpayer dollars and possibly engaged in self-dealing with top executives.”