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Arizona Agency Says It Addressed Sexual Abuse Concerns

AP Photo/Eric Gay, File

Arizona's health services department says it addressed how shelters for immigrant children dealt with allegations of sexual abuse.

The comment came in response to criticism by an activist group wanting more oversight.

The department said in a statement that it had conducted extensive inspections of all 13 Southwest Key facilities and will increase future monitoring.

A group known as Uncage and Reunite Families called on Gov. Doug Ducey Thursday to commit to another and independent investigation of the shelters, saying the health department effort didn't suffice.

In a statement, the health department said it has limited jurisdiction but works with local police to make sure abuse is reported and investigated. It says surveyors stay onsite if they encounter a situation where children are in immediate danger. Southwest Key has said it welcomes more oversight.

The health department in a letter to Ducey last month said its investigation found delayed fingerprint processing for background checks, among other infractions.

Shelters that house immigrant children have come under scrutiny since the administration of President Donald Trump introduced a "zero tolerance" policy that resulted in more than 2,900 children being separated from their families, most of whom have since been reunited.

Arizona has seen numerous allegations of sexual abuse at its many shelters for immigrant children, including one made by the government of El Salvador, which said it received reports of three children, 12 to 17, who were sexually abused at unnamed shelters in Arizona.

Such shelters are operated by Southwest Key and other nonprofit organizations, not the state itself.