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The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had spent $17 million in an untendered contract to house migrants in hotels that had largely stayed unused between April and June of last year and that a contractor failed to meet ICE standards.
The DHS Inspector General’s Office reviewed ICE’s plans for migrant families crossing the southern border as numbers surged early last year and how the contract was awarded.
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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 that its current Family Residential Centers would be insufficient to accommodate the number of migrants crossing the border.
Endeavors, a San Antonio-based nonprofit, separately entered into a no-tender contract with the Department of Health and Human Services for more than $500 million. The contracts have been controversial because Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official who also served as Biden’s transitional adviser on homeland security issues, sits on the company’s board. .
The ICE contract used six hotels to help migrants with stays of up to three days, while enrolled in Alternatives to Detention (ATD). But the watchdog found that ICE was not justified in using a no-tender contract, which it awarded after receiving an unsolicited proposal from Endeavors, and that much of the space was not used because the contract required ICE to pay for up to 1,239 beds, regardless of how many were used.
“ICE failed to adequately justify the need for a sole-source contract to house migrant families and spent approximately $17 million on hotel space and services at six hotels that went largely unused between April and June 2021,” the report said.
It says usage varied from an average of 21% at one hotel to 45% at another.
“ICE’s sole-source contract with Endeavors resulted in millions of dollars being spent on unused hotel space,” the report said.
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The report also criticized Endeavours, saying it failed to adhere to new healthcare protocols, in particular ensuring that appropriate COVID-19 tests were used before transport to hotels, “exposing migrant families and the outside population at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“Furthermore, Endeavors failed to follow ICE standards required to ensure appropriate care for migrant families housed while those families resided at its facilities,” the report adds. These standards include the provision of self-service snacks, staff storage of important documents such as passports, and video cameras to record use-of-force incidents.
The report recommends that ICE ensure that proper contracting processes and policies are followed, that it conducts housing assessments for migrant families, that it implements testing protocols for COVID-19 and that Endeavors meets the standards.
ICE disagreed with parts of the report, saying it was justified by the use of the untendered contract, which was allowed under an ‘unusual and compelling urgency’ exemption. the agency was facing due to the border crisis. While he agreed with the need for a housing assessment, he disagreed with the report’s other findings, arguing that his testing protocols are sufficient and that ICE “did assured that Endeavors was compliant with the FRS in 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 working with vulnerable communities for more than 50 years – including veterans, the homeless and those who recover from disasters”.
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“Endeavors also offers programs for people living with mental illness and physical disability,” the company said. “When the federal government asked for help dealing with the influx of migrants to 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 receive care and services was simply the right thing to do and consistent with our mission to compassionately serve vulnerable people in crisis.”