Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez Steps Down

Embattled CEO/founder departs amid protests, investigations

Juan Sanchez, embattled CEO of local nonprofit Southwest Key, is stepping down from his post.

Southwest Key founder Juan Sanchez (Photo by John Anderson)

Sanchez, who founded the group in 1987, has seen intense scrutiny for housing migrant children separated from their families under Trump’s zero tolerance policy, and for program violations and claims of abuse across its 27 youth shelters nationwide. A New York Times investigation additionally found alleged financial improprieties, including possible self-dealing with its top executives and stockpiling millions of taxpayer dollars. Sanchez, who received a comparatively lucrative salary compared to his non-profit counterparts, was the subject of protest, with organizers rallying in front of his Northwest Austin home last June.

“In consultation with Dr. Sanchez, the Board believes it’s time to begin a new chapter at Southwest Key,” said Board Chairman Orlando Martinez. “Our mission has never been more critical than it is today, and we must look carefully at what is required to evolve and grow as an organization.” Before starting a nationwide search for a permanent CEO, the group’s COO Joella Brooks will take over as interim CEO.

Sanchez slammed what he considers unfair representation of his non-profit as part of the reason for his exit. “Recent events have convinced me that Southwest Key would benefit from a fresh perspective and new leadership,” said Sanchez in a statement. “Widespread misunderstanding of our business and unfair criticism of our people has become a distraction our employees do not deserve. It’s time for new beginnings. I will dearly miss what has been my life’s work and passion for decades, but I can think of no better person to step into this role than Joella.”

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Immigration
Pointing Out Detention Centers
Pointing Out Detention Centers "In Plain Sight"
Sky-high art turns eyes to migrant detention and incarceration

Victoria Rossi, July 3, 2020

Rep. Talarico Shocked at Inhumane Border Facility Conditions During Tour
Talarico Shocked at Border Facility Conditions
Austin-area lawmaker part of delegation that visited El Paso, Clint

Mary Tuma, July 2, 2019

More by Mary Tuma
Abortion Care Providers “Heartened” After SB 8 Hearing at SCOTUS
Abortion Care Providers “Heartened” After SB 8 Hearing at SCOTUS
Oral arguments focus on law’s vigilante enforcement

Nov. 5, 2021

Abortion Care Providers “Heartened” After SB 8 Hearing at SCOTUS
Abortion Care Providers “Heartened” After SB 8 Hearing at SCOTUS
Oral arguments focus on law’s vigilante enforcement

Nov. 1, 2021


Immigration, Southwest Key, Juan Sanchez, family separation, Orlando Martinez, Joella Brooks

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle