According to federal court records, a worker for Southwest Key has been charged with 11 sex offenses after authorities accused him of molesting at least eight unaccompanied immigrant boys over nearly a year at one of the company's shelters in Mesa, Arizona.
The charges against Levian D. Pacheco were first reported by ProPublica.
When an adult is referred for prosecution, a child traveling with the adult is turned over to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Migrant children who crossed the border were taken to a facility after entering the United States. While I appreciate the effort made by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to contain all of the children in a safe, enclosed environment, I am terrified that the fear of sexual assault lurks around every corner.
Federal prosecutors laid out the case against Levian D. Pacheco in a court filing, submitted on July 30.
The prosecution alleges that he sexually abused eight minors between the ages of 15 to 17 in the Casa Kokopelli shelter in Mesa, Arizona.
The facility is run by Southwest Key Programs, which has a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This department is supposed to protect migrant children whose parents are being punished for crossing the border. Yet, in this case, this facility has been the host of numerous sexual assaults.
Parents bring their children across the border for a reason: to live a better life. When they are forced to be separated, their parents trust that the U.S, the government will protect their children to the best of their ability. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to have parents be forcibly separated from their children, only to find out that they were sexually assaulted.
Casa Kokopelli was cited by the Arizona Department of Health Services in 2017 for failing to complete background checks, including fingerprinting, to ensure that employees had not previously committed sex offenses and other crimes, records show. Yet, Pacheco worked for nearly four months without a complete background check and those records did not show any previous arrests or convictions for sex offenses.
Then how was he able to sexually assault eight children at the facility he worked for?
"These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS' Administration for Children and Families treats our responsibility for each child with the utmost care," said HHS spokesperson Kenneth Wolfe. "Any allegation of abuse or neglect is taken seriously."
The filing alleges the inappropriate contact took place between Aug. 29, 2016, and July 24, 2017. The allegations against Pacheco include that he performed oral sex on two of the teenagers and tried to force one of them to penetrate him anally. Pacheco had groped the other six teens through their clothing. The current charges include eight counts of abusive sexual contact with a ward and three counts of sexual acts with a ward.