Former Border Patrol Agent Hired To Care For Migrant Kids Was Once Arrested For Child Porn

Ernesto Padron was hired by the organization despite their “extensive” background check — and was fired for an entirely different reason.

A nonprofit at the center of President Donald Trump’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy reportedly hired a former Border Patrol Agent who had been arrested on child pornography charges.

Southwest Key, a national non-profit working with unaccompanied migrant children in Brownsville, Texas, had employed Ernesto Padron until last year, allowing him direct access to children as a case manager, a Texas Monthly investigation found.  

Southwest Key, which touts itself has an organization working to “improve the lives of children and their families,” has 26 shelters across the country, with 17 facilities in Texas.

Padron was hired to work for the Casa Padre facility, which is now under scrutiny following Trump administration’s policy that has separated more than 2,300 immigrant children from their parents after they crossed the southern U.S. border, according to NPR. Of all Southwest Key facilities, Casa Padres hosts the largest number of unaccompanied children, according to a Texas Tribune report.

The organization is also slated to receive more than $458 million from the administration for hosting immigrant children being separated — more than other similar facilities, reports Bloomberg.

Even though Padron was initially suspended after the organization found out about his prior arrest, he was eventually fired in May 2017 for an entirely different reason — as part of a mass layoff at the organization stemming from a drop in number of unaccompanied children crossing the border, according to The Brownsville Herald.

Following an FBI investigation starting in 2008, Padron, then a Border Patrol agent, was arrested in 2010 on child pornography charges. Due to a backlog of cases in the district attorney’s office, the prosecution was stalled. By the time a new district attorney came to office in 2013, the statute of limitation had passed for Padron’s case, the Texas Monthly investigation revealed.

Because he was not convicted, he passed Southwest Key’s “extensive background checks,” Southwest Key spokesperson Lizzie Chen told Texas Monthly.

Padron’s arrest in October 2010 made local headlines in Brownsville. Sheriff Omar Lucio said that Padron had access to “large amount” of child pornographic materials for two to three years.  A background check outlined in a policy for Administration for Children and Families requires a FBI fingerprint check of the employees.

The Texas Monthly investigation also revealed further loopholes in Southwest Key’s system, with one of the repeated allegations against the organization being their failure to submit information for background checks.  

A Texas Tribune investigation found a total of 246 violations at Southwest Key facilities in the last three years, with 13 violations at Casa Padre.

[Photo: Protesters lay down shoes at the Tornillo Port of Entry near El Paso, Texas on June 21 to demonstrate against the US administration's family separation policy. By Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images]

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