Juan Sanchez, the founder and CEO of Southwest Key, the largest network of shelters for migrant children in government care, resigned from his post Monday, according to an internal memo sent to Southwest Key employees and obtained by VICE News.
“Recent events have convinced me and our Board of Directors that Southwest Key would benefit from a fresh perspective and new leadership,” Sanchez wrote. “Widespread misunderstanding of our business and unfair criticism of our people have become a distraction our employees do not deserve, and I can no longer bear. It’s time for new beginnings.”
As of December 2018, Southwest Key reported housing 3,644 migrant children children across the U.S., and it has processed over 20,000 in the last two years. It operates 26 shelters in Texas, Arizona, and California.
The New York Times reported Southwest Key has collected $1.7 billion in federal contracts over the past decade. Sanchez was paid $1.5 million in 2017 alone.
The organization received widespread attention last summer and fall following controversies surrounding the agency’s management and treatment of undocumented minors in its shelters. Southwest Key has been plagued by accusations of sexual abuse at several shelter sites, criticized for its role housing children who were separated from their parents, and subject to FBI and DOJ investigations into its business practices.
In December, the Department of Justice began an investigation into Southwest Key for misuse of government funds and potential self-dealing.
The memo named Joella Brooks, currently the company’s chief operating officer, as interim CEO.
Cover image: This June 20, 2014, file photo shows a Southwest Key program sign. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)