The Slatest

John Kelly Joins Board of Company That Detains Migrant Children

John Kelly looks to the side in a crowded room in the White House.
John Kelly, then White House chief of staff, at a meeting with President Donald Trump and governors-elect at the White House on Dec. 13, 2018. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly has joined the board of the company that operates the largest shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in the country, the company announced Friday.

The company, Caliburn International, owns Comprehensive Health Services Inc., which operates a massive shelter in Homestead, Florida—a facility congressional Democrats have described as keeping children in “prison-like” conditions.

It seems that Kelly, as a former White House official, would not be prevented from sitting on the company’s board under current White House ethics rules, but he is still not allowed to try to influence government policies in a way that would benefit the company, according to the Associated Press. Democrats have expressed outrage over what they have deemed the “corruption” and callousness of a former administration official joining a company that participated in the separation of thousands of families at the border during the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy in the spring of 2018.


“This is unforgivable,” Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents the district containing the facility, tweeted. “It confirms what we knew about the President—that he and the people he surrounds himself with, like John Kelly, are willing to profit off the cruel detaining of immigrant children.”

Sen. Cory Booker echoed that sentiment on Twitter: “Profiting from your own cruel policies. This is disgusting.”

Kelly, who left the Trump administration in January, had already been on the board of advisors of the investment firm that now owns Caliburn before joining the White House. Kelly stepped down from the board in January 2017 when he joined the administration. The company was awarded at least $222 million to operate the Florida facility between July 2018 and April 2019, according to CBS News.

The Homestead facility, which is continuing to expand, still holds thousands of migrant children, most of whom arrived at the border without a parent or guardian. During the zero-tolerance period, the shelter held up to 140 children separated from their families, according to the AP.

Comprehensive Health Services has won licenses to operate three shelters in Texas for migrant children along with the one in Florida. According to CBS News, the Florida shelter is the only one in the country not subject to routine inspections from child welfare experts.