Separating kids from their parents is terrible. Profiting from it makes it even worse.

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly has joined the board of directors of Caliburn International, the parent company for the nation’s largest facility housing unaccompanied migrant kids.

President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with newly sworn-in White House Chief of Staff John Kelly at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 31, 2017.  
President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with newly sworn-in White House Chief of Staff John Kelly at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 31, 2017. CREDIT: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

John Kelly, who served as White House chief of staff under President Trump for about a year and half, has joined the board of directors of Caliburn International — the parent company of Comprehensive Health Services, which runs the nation’s largest facility for unaccompanied migrant children, along with three other shelters.

CBS reported that protestors first spotted Kelly entering the Homestead, Florida facility in April. As CBS notes, Kelly was on the board of advisors of DC Capital Partners before his 2017 stint in the White House; that investment firm now owns Caliburn.

Comprehensive Health Services is the only private company that operates these facilities and has become “one of the most dominant players in the industry.”

Last August, it secured three licenses for facilities in Texas, totaling 500 beds, and in December, the Homestead facility began expanding from a capacity of 1,250 beds to 3,200.

Located on several acres of federal land adjacent to an Air Reserve Base, the facility is the nation’s only site not subject to routine inspections by state child welfare experts.

Kelly was the White House chief of staff from late July 2017 to mid-December 2018, a stretch of time that saw the Trump administration’s aggressive tactics against immigrants ramp up and when “the average length of stay for an unaccompanied migrant child in U.S. custody skyrocketed.”


Comprehensive Health Services raked in at least $222 million to run Homestead between July 7, 2018 and April 20 of this year, according to federal contract records. More money awaits them, as CBS notes, “up to $341 million in payments between now and November for continued operation of the expanded site.”

A person could note that it appears Kelly helped oversee the construction of a sprawling child-internment complex which financially rewards a private company for ripping migrant children out of their parents’ arms at the U.S.-Mexico border. Then, upon leaving the White House’s employ, placed himself in a position to reap those very profits by joining the company who directly benefited from the violent, morally-vacuous policies Kelly enabled in the first place. 

Richard Briffault, a Columbia Law School professor, told CBS that while Kelly’s maneuvering here “doesn’t sound great” it is unlikely that he is “directly violating any policies.”

Briffault said government officials are barred from benefiting from their involvement in matters that involve specific parties, meaning that while serving at the White House, Kelly could not directly influence any decision to award a contract to a DC Capital company.

While chief of staff, Kelly defended the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that led to the separation of thousands of migrant families after they entered the United States across the southern border.


Prior to his time as White House chief of staff, Kelly served briefly as Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security. That post was later taken up by his protégée Kirstjen Nielsen, who recently was also forced out of the administration, and whose reputation, like her mentor’s, came to be sullied over the draconian family separation policy.

The shelters are not supposed to function like prisons, but the facility at Homestead is surrounded by tall fence and its boundaries are policed by “a large team of private security contractors.”

Lawyers who oversee whether these shelters are in compliance with legal guidelines “repeatedly” have complained to the Justice Department about the extraordinary security measures at Homestead and more than a dozen other similar holding facilities for underaged migrants.

Kelly, who has called his stint as a Trump staffer “the least enjoyable job” he’d ever had, now appears poised to cash in, now that the unpalatable experience is behind him.

Caliburn’s CEO, James Van Dusen, issued this statement on Kelly’s hiring:

With four decades of military and humanitarian leadership, in-depth understanding of international affairs and knowledge of current economic drivers around the world, General Kelly is a strong strategic addition to our team. Our board remains acutely focused on advising on the safety and welfare of unaccompanied minors who have been entrusted to our care and custody by the Department of Health and Human Services to address a very urgent need in caring for and helping to find appropriate sponsors for these unaccompanied minors.