Staff at an immigration centre in Arizona could face criminal charges after video footage showed children being dragged and shoved.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office investigated incidents that took place on three days in September and now prosecutors will decide whether to bring charges.

The videos, first obtained by The Arizona Republic, show staff dragging children on the ground and pushing a boy against a door.

Video: Children allegedly abused at migrant shelter

One video shows a member of staff sitting at a conference room table fidgeting with her hair while another drags a child into the room.

The shelter, known as Hacienda del Sol, was operated by Southwest Key and located in the metro Phoenix area before it was closed in October.

It was used to hold immigrant children who came to the US without a parent or those separated from their family.

A boy chooses a toy at a migrants shelter in El Paso, Texas. Pic: File
Image: A boy chooses a toy at a migrants shelter in El Paso, Texas. Pic: File

Southwest Key has been investigated after a string of investigations into abuse of children in its care.

The organisation, based in Texas, is the largest provider of shelters for immigrant children in the US.

It held about 1,600 youngsters in 13 facilities in Arizona but this was reduced by half following the investigation.

Southwest Key was forced to close Hacienda del Sol after an investigation found the organisation had not carried out background checks on all of its staff.

Southwest Key spokesman Jeff Eller said staff who monitored video at Hacienda del Sol notified police immediately when they saw the alleged abuse.

He said the organisation co-operated with the investigation and quickly suspended and eventually sacked two employees who appeared in the video.

June 2018: First Lady Melania Trump at one of the Southwest Key facilities in Phoenix
Image: June 2018: First Lady Melania Trump at one of the Southwest Key facilities in Phoenix

Mr Eller added: "We wholeheartedly welcomed the Office of Refugee Resettlement's decision to suspend operations at Hacienda del Sol and are working to thoroughly retrain our staff."

He said Southwest Key has also arranged an independent review of procedures, hiring and training at its Arizona shelters.

The US Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the care of immigrant children, said in a statement: "These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances.

"When any allegations of abuse or neglect are made they are taken seriously, investigated and swift action is taken."

Immigration facilities in Arizona have been at the centre of numerous allegations of sexual abuse.

The government of El Salvador said it received reports of three children aged between 12 and 17 who were sexually abused at shelters in the state.

In August, police arrested a 33-year-old man on suspicion of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl at a Southwest Key shelter where just weeks earlier first lady Melania Trump had taken a tour.

A former youth care worker was convicted in September of sexually abusing seven teenage boys at a Phoenix shelter for immigrant children.

Donald Trump blamed the Democrats for the recent deaths of two immigrant children in US custody.

More from Arizona

He said the deaths of Felipe Gomez Alonso and Jakelin Caal, aged eight and seven, were "strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country immediately".

Both children were from Guatemala but died in separate circumstances after crossing the border illegally and being taken into the custody of US Border Patrol.

Original Article

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