June 06, 2019

Senator Warren, Representative Jayapal Investigate Former White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly's "Cynical" and "Unethical" Decision to Join the Board of Directors of Federal Contractor Running the Nation's Largest Detention Center for Migrant Children

Four months after leaving the Trump Administration, General Kelly joined the board of Caliburn International; appears to be receiving $100,000 or more in annual compensation; Warren, Jayapal have introduced sweeping ethics legislation to shut the revolving door and keep high-level government officials from cashing in on their public service

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) today sent a letter to Caliburn International Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jim Van Dusen expressing concerns and posing questions about the appointment of former White House Chief of Staff and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary General John Kelly to the company's board of directors.

As DHS Secretary and then White House Chief of Staff, Kelly advocated for the Trump Administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that led to forcibly separating thousands of migrant children from their parents, holding those children in cages, and putting them at increased risk of "severe psychological distress." Six migrant children have died while in, or soon after being released from, federal custody in the last year.

Just four months after his departure from the Trump Administration, General Kelly has reportedly joined the Board of Directors of Caliburn International, the parent company of Comprehensive Health Services, Inc. (CHSi), which runs both the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Florida, which is expanding to hold 3,200 beds for unaccompanied children, as well as three more facilities in Texas. Reports indicate that CHSi could receive over $340 million in federal contract payments in just six months to operate the Homestead site.  

"General Kelly ... was at the center of the inhumane and poorly planned immigration policies that put children in cages while separating thousands of families and that benefitted your company," the lawmakers wrote in their letter. "In fact, those policies helped a subsidiary of your company, which operates the 'nation's largest facility for unaccompanied migrant children,' rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts."

The lawmakers cite reporting that as a member of the board, Kelly will advise Caliburn International on unaccompanied children specifically. They also cited public information indicating that he is poised to earn $100,000 annually for his services.

"General Kelly's role in promoting and helping execute these cruel immigration policies remains a stain on his decades of public service," the lawmakers continued. "It is outrageous that he now appears to be cashing in on those same policies, as a board member for the company that benefitted from his actions as a government official."

Citing concern about the revolving door between Kelly's government service for the Trump Administration and his lucrative decision to join a federal contractor that benefitted from the policies he put in place, the lawmakers have asked a series of questions to better understand how and why General Kelly was appointed to the Caliburn board. They have requested answers from Caliburn's CEO by June 20, 2019.

Senator Warren and Rep. Jayapal are sponsors of far-reaching ethics legislation, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which would make it illegal for Caliburn or any DHS contractor to pay Kelly or any other former senior DHS official a dime for at least four years after they leave office. "We intend to keep working to make that plan law so that actions like General Kelly's rapid, cynical, and unethical shift from the government payroll to the contractor's payroll are no longer allowed," the lawmakers write in their letter.

In May, Senator Warren wrote to General Kelly, objecting to his decision to join the Caliburn board and calling on him to resign immediately.