Watchdog Calls for University To Cancel John Kelly Appearance

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WASHINGTON – Tonight, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will speak at the Drew University Forum in Madison, New Jersey. Kelly, who helped implement Trump’s family separation policy as White House chief of staff, received public backlash for his role on the board of Caliburn, a company the administration contracted to run its migrant detention facility in Homestead, Florida. 

“America’s college and university leaders have a moral responsibility to make it clear that the administration officials responsible for this horrific policy will not be allowed to seek refuge in their classrooms, lecture halls, or auditoriums,” said Lizzy Price, director of Restore Public Trust. “On the Trump administration's watch, children taken from their families were abused and sexually assaulted. Some even died. And as recently as last year, Kelly was still earning money off migrant children’s detainment. Kelly made money off of separating children from their families. Drew University should cancel John Kelly’s appearance.”

Organizers protesting Kelly’s appearance at the forum have called his actions at the Trump administration “abhorrent” and assert that the school “should not provide a platform for him to whitewash his legacy.” 

“The students and activists protesting former Chief of Staff John Kelly’s appearance at the Drew University Forum are right: Kelly should not get a platform to rehabilitate his reputation,” said Price.

Reports in October 2019 revealed the Trump administration’s plan to shift to privatizing migrant detention, and its contract with Caliburn — on whose board John Kelly sits — to operate Florida’s Homestead detention center. When Caliburn went public in 2018, it touted a $100 million stock offering and cited its relationship with the government as an advantage. 

Last year, Restore Public Trust launched an accountability campaign backed by a coalition of more than 40 civil rights, immigration, government accountability and other organizations calling on college and university presidents to make clear that senior officials involved in the Trump administration’s horrific family separation policy will not have a place in their classrooms. The coalition launched an open letter to college and university leadership calling on them to make it clear that their institutions will not offer a soft landing to anyone involved in planning, implementing, or defending the policy.

Members of the coalition represent hundreds of thousands of Americans, and include the following organizations: Restore Public Trust, Allied Progress, America’s Voice, American Bridge, Bridges Faith Initiative, CASA In Action, Center For Popular Democracy, Equity Forward, Faith in Public Life, Jobs With Justice, Main Street Alliance, MomsRising, National Immigration Law Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, Workers Defense Project, California Reinvestment Coalition, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights – CHIRLA, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Make the Road New York, AMEXCAN, North Carolina Justice Center, Raleigh Immigration, InterReligious Task Force On Central America and Colombia, Ohio Immigrant Alliance, Transformations CDC, South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, American Gateways, Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee, Fuerza Del Valle, La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Proyecto Azteca, RAICES, Texas Civil Rights Project, Workers Defense Project, Youth Rise Texas, OneAmerica.

Background

AP HEADLINE: “Trump Admin Shifting To Privatize Migrant Child Detention.”  [AP, 10/3/19]

Federal Government Contracted With John Kelly’s Company Caliburn To House Migrant Children. “Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly joined Caliburn’s board this spring after stepping down from decades of government service; he joined the Trump administration as Secretary of Homeland Security, where he backed the idea of taking children from their parents at the border, saying it would discourage people from trying to immigrate or seek asylum. Critics say this means Kelly now stands to financially benefit from a policy he helped create.”   [AP, 10/3/19]

Caliburn’s Business Grew As Record Numbers Of Minors Entered Government Care In The Last Two Years. “Sheltering migrant children has become a growing business for the Florida-based government contractor, as the number of minors in government custody has swollen to record levels over the past two years. More than 50 babies, toddlers and teens were closely watched on this day inside the clean, well-lit shelter surrounded by chain link fences.”  [AP, 10/3/19]

Government Data Showed One In Four Migrant Children Were Housed By The Company For Which Kelly Serves On The Board. “The government doesn’t disclose the names of individual shelters, nor how many children are in each one. But confidential government data obtained by the AP shows that in June nearly one in four migrant children in government care was housed by CHS. That included more than 2,300 teens at Homestead, Florida, and more than 500 kids in shelters in Brownsville, Los Fresnos and San Benito, Texas. For each teen held at Homestead at that time, it cost taxpayers an average $775 per day.”  [AP, 10/3/19]

Caliburn Went Public In 2018 With A $100 Million Stock Offering And Cited Its Relationship With The Government As An Advantage. “CHS’s business plan going forward depends on having more kids in their shelters, according to a prospectus its parent company Caliburn filed last year to go public with a $100 million stock offering. ‘In a recent shift, the U.S. federal government has started to transition to utilizing private contractors for medical and shelter maintenance,’ said the prospectus. ‘We believe that as a result of our past performance and longstanding relationship with HHS, we are positioned to be a leading provider of these services.’”  [AP, 10/3/19]

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