Remember when we were all concerned about the conditions faced by children housed in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities after being detained while crossing the border? It wasn’t that long ago — in fact, less than a year.
So, imagine if a facility housing illegal immigrant teens was cited 52 times for “leaks, rusty nails, broken windows, dirty bathrooms, soiled curtains, poorly lighted bedrooms and hallways, peeling paint and plaster and holes in walls.”
Imagine if it received a further 14 citations for “not having a qualified, certified administrator or qualified assistant administrator.”
Imagine if it received citations for leaving children locked out and because inspectors “did not observe sufficient supplies of fresh food.”
Imagine the fury if the Los Angeles Times reported this about the facility: “Children have been locked out of the home for hours because there was no staff on-site, forcing some to take shelter outside in a broken-down van. And at times, there has not been enough food, former residents said. There was violence between the residents and break-ins, according to former residents and workers.”
“The basement frequently flooded. And the roof often leaked, according to former workers and state inspections. Bed bugs infested residents’ mattresses, cockroaches swarmed the kitchen, and some of the boys used drugs in the home, former residents and workers said.”
The facility is called Casa Libre and it’s in Los Angeles. It’s run by a man named Peter Schey. And the first few paragraphs of the Los Angeles Times’ exposé of the home should tell you everything about why you haven’t heard any outrage or fury regarding the home:
“Los Angeles lawyer Peter Schey has long been a trailblazing courtroom defender of immigrant youth,” the May 22 piece began.
“He helped argue the Supreme Court case that ensured the right of children without legal status to attend public schools. He also helped secure the Flores settlement — a landmark 1997 agreement to safeguard migrant children held by the government, which gave his legal foundation the right to inspect those shelters.
“That case also inspired him to run his own shelter for homeless migrant youths,” the piece continued.
That home is Casa Libre, which opened in 2002. Schey repurposed a “historic mansion near MacArthur Park” for the home, which may lead you to believe that this was a veritable Shangri-La for at-risk illegal immigrant youth.
Instead, “Casa Libre has been cited by state officials 143 times for failing to meet standards for state-licensed group homes, and 89 of those were for issues that posed ‘an immediate risk to the health, safety or personal rights of residents,’ a Times investigation found.”
One staff member told the Times that it was “a circus” at the mansion, with only one adult supervising 10 youths. While they were supposed to be going to school, only three individuals in the home actually attended. The rest, the staff member said, were often intoxicated and abusive toward authority figures in the house.
“Sometimes they come home at 3 or 4 in the morning and they are under the influence,” the staff member told the Times.
And when issues were raised, officials at the home say they were ignored.
In October of 2017, the home’s administrator — Federico Bustamante — emailed one of Casa Libre’s board members, noting how “mismanaged this organization has been under [Schey’s] direct instruction and watch.”
Bustamante never heard back from the board member, who claims she never saw the message. You can imagine it might have gotten lost in her inbox. After all, the title of the email — “URGENT SITUATION — Casa Libre” — certainly didn’t draw attention to itself or anything.
Schey, meanwhile, says that Bustamante was “disgruntled” and he’d been planning to replace him. This seems like an odd excuse, given the fact that he was employed as the administrator between 2012 and 2017.
“When he comes out swinging is when he is told, ‘You’re not going to be in charge here, and you’re kind of on probation,’” Schey said. “Stuff he said is just utterly, completely false.”
As for the problems in the house, the Times reported that they’re all news to Schey, who says he didn’t know about the “circus” allegations or the fact there were cockroaches in Casa Libre.
“Most kids I talk to tell me it was the best home they ever lived in,” Schey said. “Is it perfect? No, it’s not perfect … Is it better than being homeless on the streets? No question. Is it better than being in custody? No question. Could we improve? Absolutely. Are we trying to improve? Yes, absolutely.”
“Is it better than being homeless?” is arguably the lowest bar for evaluating the success of any group home setting that I’ve ever heard. Really, if you run a home for at-risk illegal immigrant teens and you find yourself telling a reporter that it beats homelessness, you should probably re-evaluate everything you’re doing.
As for being better than being in custody, well, I suppose this depends on the individual. I don’t think it’s a particularly great situation when teens — no matter what their legal status — are often locked out of the home, are able to get intoxicated and avoid school, live in filth and allegedly go without food on a regular basis. That’s not good for either the youths being housed or society at large. ICE detention actually doesn’t look terrible compared to this.
Of course, Schey’s response is pure Colonel Klink — he knows nothing, he sees nothing. He didn’t know that they were cockroaches, he says all the kids were well-fed, he doesn’t know where a lot of this is coming from and he’s making improvements. Those who say otherwise are disgruntled former employees and those 143 citations — hey, what group home doesn’t get them?
What a surprise.
The left’s outrage has nothing to do with the conditions these young immigrants were being kept in. If it was, Casa Libre would be all over the news. Instead, this was about taking shots at the Trump administration over an issue that’s near and dear to the Democrats for the most cynical of reasons.
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