Grassroots Leadership’s Statement on Southwest Key and the detention of immigrant children and families

At Grassroots Leadership, we believe that no one should profit off of the incarceration of human beings.  

In recent months, “Zero Tolerance” policies implemented by Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump have intensified the criminalization of immigrants, ripped children from their parents arms at the southern border, and now threaten to indefinitely detain immigrant families. Thousands of children remain separated from their parents and detained in facilities operated on behalf of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency once primarily charged with resettling unaccompanied children, but one that is increasingly used as part of the detention and deportation regime.  

Many of these facilities are operated by Southwest Key, an Austin-based organization.  While the issues surrounding the Office of Refugee Resettlement are complicated, system actors must have the courage to stand up against the deportation machine and  refuse to profit off misery of families and children. Southwest Key has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars from the contracts of the detention of children in ORR custody, has submitted proposals to operate family detention centers, and pays its executives exorbitant salaries.  

These are some of the darkest days in our nation’s recent immigration history, and this is a time of deep moral crisis for our community and country.  We must have moral courage to stand up and say that organizations in our community cannot profit off of incarceration. We call on Southwest Key to join the chorus of voices calling for justice, to end its federal contracts to detain children, and to refrain from any new detention contracts with ORR or ICE.  

For our part, we have learned that the owner of our office space in East Austin is a member of Southwest Key’s board of directors. We have asked her to use her position to advocate that Southwest Key end its contracts to detain children. In addition to calling on Southwest Key to do the right thing, we are prepared to make sacrifices as an organization to ensure we do not support those that profit from detention.