Democratic lawmakers are condemning former White House chief of staff John Kelly’s new position on the board of a company that operates the nation’s largest facility for migrant children.

“Indecent. Immoral. Corrupt,” Sen. Jeff Merkely tweeted. “John Kelly drove Trump’s child separation policy that inflicted trauma on thousands of children. Now he’ll get paid to increase profits for Caliburn – the for-profit prison reaping mega-millions locking up migrant children.”

Kelly, who stepped down from his position in January, is joining the board of Caliburn International, a company that offers consulting and engineering in national defense, healthcare, international diplomacy, and homeland security readiness. Their clients are both commercial and governmental.

More: Trump administration has separated hundreds of children from their migrant families since 2018

The news comes after Kelly was last month seen at the nation’s largest facility for unaccompanied migrant children in Homestead, Florida, which is run by Comprehensive Health Services — an arm of Caliburn. Previously, some lawmakers described the Homestead facility as having “prison-like” conditions.

Caliburn also operates three other shelters for unaccompanied migrant children in Texas. 

“With four decades of military and humanitarian leadership, in-depth understanding of international affairs and knowledge of current economic drivers around the world, General Kelly is a strong strategic addition to our team,” Caliburn International’s CEO James Van Dusen said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

More: Homeland Security to use speedy DNA testing to verify migrant family relationships

Kelly was serving as the Homeland Security secretary when he first revealed that the Trump administration was considering separations of migrant families. The effort was aimed at deterring Central American migrants from coming north to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Trump administration implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy during the spring of 2018, which resulted in more than 2,700 children being separated from their guardian.

Ann Maxwell, an inspector at the HHS inspector general’s office, earlier this year said the government is unsure how many children are still separated from their families. The Trump administration began separating children from their guardians in late 2017, months before the “zero-tolerance” policy was announced. 

The Trump administration is continuing to separate children from their family despite the policy not being in place.


President Donald Trump’s administration continues to see turnover as he announced John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, will be leaving by the end of 2018.

A number of Democratic lawmakers, including some who are running for president, have come out against Kelly’s appointment to the board.

“The Adult in the Room is getting paid to put kids in cages,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted, referencing an email from former White House special counsel Ty Cobb, who reportedly referred to himself and Kelly as the “adults in the room” in an email exchange.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted: “Profiting from your own cruel policies. This is disgusting.” He linked to a CBS News article, who first reported Kelly’s new role.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren touted her plan that would restrict senior government officials from leaving the administration and “immediately getting paid by firms they gave contracts to.

“John Kelly oversaw many of the Trump Admin’s most morally repugnant immigration policies. Now he could be making big bucks serving on the Board of a company that’s profiting from the same cruel plans he put in place. This is corruption at its absolute worst,” Warren wrote in a series of tweets.

Kelly doesn’t appear to be in violation of an executive order on ethics that President Donald Trump issued in 2017, which prevents White House officials from joining boards after leaving the administration. It does, however, ban lobbying activities.

More: Lawsuit aims to block Attorney General William Barr’s rule forcing asylum seekers into detention

In addition, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who is also running for president, has also criticized Kelly for his appointment.

“After implementing one of the cruelest immigration agendas in our nation’s history, disgraced Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly will now profit from detaining immigrant children and families. Unbelievable,” Castro tweeted.

Contributing: Associated Press


An Associated Press investigation finds that most of the 14,300 migrant children in government care have been placed in large detention centers and residential facilities where they spend days and nights with more than 100 kids. (Dec. 19)


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