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The intense scrutiny this week on immigration policies that have forced the separation of undocumented families at the U.S. border with Mexico has inevitably turned to the companies operating detention facilities where thousands of children are being housed. Some of the names are familiar to the federal incarceration business, such as the GEO Group, a leading private-prison company that has seen its fair share of federal procurement dollars, even as human-rights groups fault the company for poor medical care that has resulted in numerous detainee deaths and inmates allege violations of a federal human-trafficking law.
But another operator of such detention facilities sticks out. Unlike most private-prison operators, Southwest Key Programs is a nonprofit group, which allows us to glean more information about its operations and finances than we could about a private company. Since 2007, SKP has received more than $1.5 billion in grants and contracts from the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees most child-immigrant detention centers.