An HIV-positive employee is charged with molesting several children at an embattled immigrant detention center, the latest in a series of abuses alleged at these embattled facilities.
Police say Levian D. Pacheco forced at least eight unaccompanied immigrant boys to perform sex acts over the course of more than a year. As ProPublica reported, the HIV-positive detention center employee targeted teens between the ages of 15 and 17 at the Arizona center, which at the time held minors who crossed the U.S. border without parents.
Though the incidents took place between 2016 and 2017 — before Donald Trump’s administration instituted a policy to separate all children from their parents after crossing the U.S. border — it has ignited a debate over the government’s treatment of immigrant children and what is seen as a lack of oversight at these centers. The Southwest Key center, where the alleged abuse took place, has been under fire from the Arizona Department of Health for failing to complete background checks on its employees.
Southwest Key is the largest operator of immigrant youth detention centers, the report noted, and there are allegations of child abuse at a number of the company’s other centers.
“On Tuesday, an employee at a Southwest Key facility in Phoenix, Fernando Magaz Negrete, was arrested on allegations that he sexually abused a 14-year-old girl by kissing her and rubbing her breast and crotch, according to Phoenix news outlets. And The Nation reported Friday that a 6-year-old girl who had been separated from her mother was allegedly fondled by a boy at another Southwest Key facility in Glendale, Arizona in June.”
The report from The Nation showed that the 6-year-old girl was taken from her mother after the pair crossed the U.S. border at a legal crossing point and presented documentation showing that they were seeking asylum. The girl was allegedly molested by another boy at the facility, and then made to sign an agreement that she would stay away from the boy. She was later molested again and physically attacked by the boy, the report found.
The girl was reunited with her mother weeks later after a judge ruled that the Trump administration must reunite children with their families, but the mother said the girl could not recognize her anymore and thought she was another detention center employee. The girl was made to believe that she would never see her mother again, the report noted.
The 25-year-old Levian Pacheco was arrested and charged in 2017, and newly obtained court records accuse him of preying on the unaccompanied children at the Southwest Key center in Mesa. He has been charged with 11 sex offenses.