Worker at immigrant children's shelter accused of molesting teen

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Phoenix police say 32-year-old Fernando Magaz Negrete, a Southwest Key employee, was arrested for sexually abusing a 14-year-old.

The facility, run by Texas-based non-profit Southwest Key, declined to say whether the girl had been separated from her family at the border. On July 31, police in Phoenix arrested the 32 year old Negrete for allegedly kissing the girl and touching her inappropriately over her clothes in her room.

The witness also accused Negrete of touching the girl's genitals and kissing her. According to officials, surveillance video from that night shows Negrete approaching the victim's room several times, but the doorway and bedroom were out of view.

He first went into the room and kissed her, the roommates said.

The incident occurred at a facility ran by Southwest Key, a private company that runs juvenile detention facilities and child immigrant detention centers across the country. The ProPublica report detailed a 2015 incident at a Tucson, Arizona, shelter operated by Southwest Key in which authorities said an employee touched a 15-year-old Honduran boy's penis from outside his clothing.

Jeff Eller, a Southwest Key spokesman, said that Mr Negrete was sacked after the reported incident, but provided no further details of the incident.

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"When a child tells us of inappropriate behavior, we immediately call law enforcement and start an internal investigation as appropriate", the spokesman, Jeff Eller, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Southwest Key describes its facilities not as detention centers but shelters and boasts its work in reunifying separated families.

When questioned by Phoenix police, Negrete, who faces charges of child molestation, sexual abuse and aggravated assault, reportedly admitted to inappropriately touching the child.

Negrete's bond is set at $150,000 and his next court hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. August 7. The New York Times notes that, while these shelters have been lauded in the past for safely housing unaccompanied minors since the Trump administration's policy of family separation took effect, their role has shifted.

Phoenix Police sergeant Vince Lewis said that police responded to a call at the Southwest Key facility - which is located near 26th and Campbell avenues - on the afternoon of July 25. They told D.L.'s father and provided some form of counseling for D.L. - but allegedly, even after that, the same boy fondled D.L. and other girls at the facility again.

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