World & Nation

John Kelly joins board of company that detains migrant kids

John F. Kelly
Former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has joined the board of the conglomerate operating the largest facility for migrant children in the country.
(Cliff Owen / AP)

Former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has joined the board of the conglomerate that operates the largest facility for migrant children in the country, the company announced Friday.

Caliburn International’s Chief Executive James Van Dusen confirmed the appointment of the former Trump Cabinet member in a news release.

Some members of Congress have described “prison-like” conditions in the facility in Homestead, Fla.

“With four decades of military and humanitarian leadership, in-depth understanding of international affairs and knowledge of current economic drivers around the world, Gen. Kelly is a strong strategic addition to our team,” said Van Dusen.


An executive order on ethics issued by President Trump in 2017 doesn’t appear to prevent Kelly and other White House officials from joining boards, although it does ban lobbying activities.

Democratic members of Congress, including presidential candidates, quickly condemned Kelly’s appointment. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said it was “corruption at its absolute worst,” and Sen. Cory Booker said Kelly’s actions were “disgusting.”

“This is unforgivable,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents the district where the facility stands. “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.”


The facility is undergoing a massive expansion, saying the dramatic spike in migrants’ arrivals has increased the demand for space. It has added hundreds of beds in the last few weeks. About 2,500 children are detained there now, ages 13 to 17, after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without a parent or guardian.

CBS News first reported news of the board appointment on Friday.

Kelly revealed the U.S. government was considering separating migrant families when he was Homeland Security secretary, saying it would be a deterrent for others considering migrating north. Kelly stepped down as chief of staff in January.

The Florida facility last year housed as many as 140 children who were separated from their parents.

Before joining the White House, Kelly was already affiliated with DC Capital Partners, the Washington private equity firm that formed the umbrella corporation behind the detention camp operator.

Kelly was seen last month touring the migrant teen detention camp in Homestead, where he was also spotted by activists protesting over the detention of children.

The new conglomerate formed last year by DC Capital Partners consolidated four companies. One of them is the facility contractor, called Comprehensive Health Services.

Among its executives, Caliburn also has a high-ranking military officer who advised Trump during his first months in office and a former Department of Defense inspector general.


“It appears to be a strategy of trying to leverage Washington insiders to help the company win contracts,” said Mandy Smithberger, a director at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog group.

The government recently gave the company new contracts to run other facilities in Texas and awarded it $340 million to expand its Florida operation in a no-bid phase.

The corporation’s chief compliance officer, Lynne Halbrooks, served as the Department of Defense’s principal deputy inspector general from 2009 to 2011 and 2013 to 2015. She is included in a “revolving door” database by an independent watchdog group of military officials who are now working for companies they used to oversee.

The chief strategy officer for Caliburn is Vice Adm. Frank Pandolfe, who was an assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from December 2015 to August 2017.

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