Private companies are being paid millions of dollars in lucrative federal government contracts to provide housing and other services for undocumented immigrant children – including the thousands of recently arrived youngsters separated from their relatives at the U.S. border, Yahoo News reported this week.
After reviewing publicly available contracts, Yahoo found 10 different contracts totaling approximately $92 million, awarded to five different vendors starting in September 2017. The contracts lasted for five years, through September 2022. The website first wrote about the contracts in a June 19 online post.
A Florida-based company, Comprehensive Health Services Inc. (CHSI), which boasts experience with “immigrant shelter services” received the bulk of the contracts. According to GovTribe.com, the company was awarded three contracts worth up to about $65 million.
Yahoo wrote that CHSI last February was awarded a contract worth $30.9 million to operate an “emergency shelter” in Homestead, Florida, with “500 UAC beds,” an acronym referring to “unaccompanied alien children.”
Southwest Key Programs was awarded two contracts in September 2017 worth up to $1.8 million each for providing “emergency shelter operations,” according to information posted on the site GovTribe.com. Yahoo, citing a report in ABC News, said the Texas based nonprofit runs 26 facilities for young migrants including Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas. Casa Padre, located in a cavernous former Walmart, is the country’s largest licensed facility for immigrant children, with a capacity of 1,500.
A company in Maryland, Dynamic Service Solutions, in September of last year was awarded a government contract worth up to $8.7 million to provide “shelter care for unaccompanied children.”
A fourth company, Dynamic Educational Systems, a subsidiary of the Arizona firm Exodyne, was awarded a pair of contracts worth up to approximately $5.6 million for “emergency shelter operations.”
The fifth business, Virginia-based MVM, was awarded two contracts worth up to $9.5 million in September 2017 for “shelter operations” and for unspecified “emergency and other relief services,” Yahoo reported.
The services provided by the companies, in addition to food and shelter, include classroom education, health care, recreation, vocational training, mental health services, family reunification, access to legal services, and case management.
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF), told the news site that the agency currently operates “100 shelters across 17 states.” Wolfe said 11,786 children were being held as part of the “unaccompanied alien children program” run by ACF’s Office of Refugee Resettlement
President Trump earlier this week said his administration would stop separating immigrant parents and their children, most of whom are arriving across the southern U.S. border from Central America.
But more than 2,500 youngsters already have been separated from their parents as they entered the United States, and it remains uncertain when – or even if – the government can figure out how to reunite them.
The controversial policy of taking the children from their parents was part of a new “zero tolerance” policy in which U.S. officials arrested all undocumented adults entering the U.S. at any border cross other than official ports of entry.
Once they are arrested, their children are taken away and held in separate facilities – a departure from past practice, when parents and young children were detained together or released pending future court proceedings.