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The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spent $17 million of a no-bid contract to house migrants in hotels that went largely unused between April and June last year and that a contractor failed to meet ICE standards.
The DHS Office of Inspector General reviewed ICE’s plans for migrant families crossing the southern border as the numbers surged early last year and how the contract was awarded.
ICE entered into an $86.9 million “sole source” contract with a company called Endeavors, rather than through a competitive bidding process. For six months, Endeavors would provide 1,239 beds and other services to migrants after ICE recognized its current family residential centers would be insufficient to house the number of migrants crossing the border.
Endeavors, a San Antonio-based nonprofit, separately entered into a no-bid contract with the Department of Health and Human Services for more than $500 million. The contracts were controversial because Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, a former Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official who also served as a Biden transition advisor on Homeland Security issues is on the company’s board.
The ICE contract used six hotels to help migrants with stays of up to three days, while they were enrolled in Alternatives to Detention (ATD). But the watchdog found that ICE was not justified in using a no-bid contract, which it awarded after receiving an unsolicited proposal from Endeavors, and that much of the space was unused as the contract required ICE pay for up to 1,239 beds no matter how many were used.
A pair of migrant families from Brazil pass through a gap in the border wall to reach the United States after crossing from Mexico to Yuma, Ariz., June 10, 2021, to seek asylum. (AP Photo/Eugene Garcia, File)
“ICE did not adequately justify the need for the sole source contract to house migrant families and spent approximately $17 million for hotel space and services at six hotels that went largely unused between April and June 2021,” the report says.
It says that usage ranged from an average of 21% in one hotel to 45% in another.
“ICE’s sole source contract with Endeavors resulted in millions of dollars being spent on unused hotel space,” the report says.
The report was also critical of Endeavors, saying that it did not meet new health care protocols, specifically ensuring that proper COVID-19 testing was used before transport to hotels, “putting migrant families and the outside population at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“Further, Endeavors did not follow required ICE standards to ensure the proper care for housing migrant families while such families were residing in its facilities,” the report adds. Those standards include providing self-service snacks, staff storage of important documents like passports and video camera to record use-of-force incidents.
The report recommends ICE ensure appropriate contract processes and policies are followed, that it conduct an assessment of migrant family housing, implement testing protocols for COVID-19 and ensure Endeavors complies with standards.
ICE disagreed with parts of the report, saying it was justified in the use of the no-bid contract, which was allowed under an exemption for “unusual and compelling urgency” the agency was facing due to the border crisis. While it agreed with the need for an assessment of housing, it disagreed with the report’s other findings, arguing that its testing protocols are sufficient and that ICE “ensured that Endeavors was in compliance with FRS at the Emergency Family Staging Centers.’
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Endeavors said it “has been providing essential humanitarian services to migrants since 2012 and has worked with vulnerable communities for more than 50 years — including veterans, the homeless and those recovering from disasters.
Migrants seeking asylum board a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle to be transferred to temporary shelter in Yuma, Ariz., Feb. 17, 2022. (Nicolo Filippo Rosso/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
“Endeavors also provides programs to those living with mental illness and physical disabilities,” the company said. “When the federal government sought help to address the influx of migrants at our southern border, Endeavors answered the call.
“We agree with ICE and its conclusion that Endeavors followed appropriate protocols and met the standard of care for migrant families in this contract. For Endeavors, lending our expertise to help ensure families are afforded care and services was simply the right thing to do and consistent with our mission of compassionately serving vulnerable people in crisis.”