Immigration

Why was Trump’s ex-chief of staff at Homestead detention center for migrant kids?

John Kelly, the former chief of staff for President Donald Trump and the former head of the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, was spotted Thursday at the Homestead temporary shelter for immigrant children.

Protesters saw him entering the property on a golf cart.

The retired Marine Corps general’s unexpected visit to the the facility — which announced this week that it intends to expand and house as many as 3,200 kids at the “temporary” center — was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As the only temporary shelter in the country, the Homestead center skirts regulations limiting how long federal authorities can hold immigrant children.

The Homestead shelter is the only for-profit child detention center in the country. It’s run by Caliburn International Corp., a Virginia- based company that was awarded the government contract to manage the center, which detains children who cross the southern border without their biological parents.

Caliburn was formed after a Washington-based private equity firm, DC Capital Partners, bought Comprehensive Health Services of Cape Canaveral, which used to manage the shelter, records show.

Kelly’s connection to the shelter? He was employed as a lobbyist for DC Capital Partners through a subsidiary prior to joining the Trump administration.

The Intercept reported in January 2017 that DC Capital had paid Kelly $37,500 and that he had failed to disclose the payments on government financial disclosure forms. After that made headlines, Kelly announced he was cutting his ties with the company.

But why Kelly, now a private citizen, made an appearance at the shelter on Thursday is still a mystery. It’s unclear if he has reconnected with Caliburn. The Miami Herald was unable to reach him for comment.

An HHS spokesperson told a reporter to “direct any further questions to Caliburn’s communications office,” which did not respond Thursday afternoon.

DC Capital’s board is stacked with former top military and intelligence officials, most of whom have ties to the NSA, CIA, and Department of Defense. Some include: former U.S. Envoy to Qatar Anthony Zinni and former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

Up until a month ago, the company, which filed its registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in October, had planned to sell up to $100 million in an initial public stock offering. However, following a growing outcry over the firm making money off the children, it announced in a letter to the SEC that it would cancel those plans.

Jim Van Dusen, Caliburn president and chief executive officer, said in the letter that the company decided to withdraw the offering “due to the variability in the stock markets. Our business continues to grow, and we could potentially return to the public markets in the future.”

The withdrawal came on the same day that a coalition of Florida immigration activists and community leaders launched a campaign demanding the Trump administration shut down the Homestead detention center, the largest of about 100 centers nationwide and the only one run by a for-profit company, and the only one that is deemed “temporary.”

By labeling the facility a “temporary’ shelter, HHS does not have to comply with the 1997 agreement, known as the Flores Settlement, that limits to 20 days the time federal authorities can detain an immigrant child.

According to HHS, the average daily cost to care for one child at an influx facility like Homestead is approximately $775 per day. The average daily cost at a regular, non-temporary shelter, is about $256 per day, per child.

“The cost of temporary shelter capacity is significantly higher, because of the need to develop facilities quickly and hire significant staff over a short period of time,” a spokeswoman told the Herald.

The Homestead facility houses more than 2,000 children and teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. In a few weeks that number will rise to more than 3,200, federal officials said.

When the child population reaches the slated 3,200, it will cost nearly $2.5 million a day to operate.

The decision to expand Homestead’s detention center comes after the government closed a large detention camp in Tornillo, Texas, in January.

It also follows a letter to Congress sent by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. In her letter, Nielsen says the shelters are overflowing because of the “crisis” at the southern border.

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