Top House Republicans are seeking internal correspondence between Biden administration officials overseeing the response to the border crisis and the organization to which it awarded $617 million in no-bid contracts for housing migrants, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.
As the border crisis began in February, the government opted to house migrant families and children in hotels rather than in existing facilities. Republicans say that the decision is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars that do not need to be spent and that they are concerned about the contractor’s insider connection to the White House.
Leaders on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees on Thursday sent letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tae Johnson, and Family Endeavors President and CEO Jon Allman requesting all documents and communication between or among employees of the government and the nonprofit organization since the start of the year.
“ICE and HHS’s decision to avoid the contracting process — and to cite a compelling urgency at the same time the Biden Administration has downplayed the crisis — raises serious questions about the propriety of the contract,” Judiciary ranking member Jim Jordan of Ohio, House Committee on Oversight and Reform ranking member James Comer of Kentucky, and Judiciary subcommittee on immigration and citizenship ranking member Tom McClintock of California wrote in the letters, which were first obtained by the Washington Examiner.
In March, ICE gave an $87 million contract to Family Endeavors without allowing other bids. The money was meant to house 1,239 migrants who came across the border with a family member in one of seven hotels for three days at a time before releasing them into the United States. Then, in April, HHS gave a $530 million no-bid contract to Family Endeavors for the organization to hold an unspecified number of unaccompanied migrant children in the remote Texas town of Pecos.
The two contracts are 14 times the company’s revenues three years ago, according to tax documents obtained by the Washington Examiner, leading to questions about whether the organization is capable of taking on such a significant project. The number of single children being taken into law enforcement custody at the border has grown every month since President Joe Biden took office and stopped immediately expelling Central American children at the border.
The lawmakers asked why Family Endeavors received the contracts, given its lack of experience. One of the organization’s executives, Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, worked on Biden’s transition team and selected who would be appointed to coveted roles atop HHS, which could be a conflict of interest.
“ICE and HHS’s no-bid contracts raise several concerns. Not only did ICE and HHS award contracts to Endeavors after recently hiring a former ICE official and Biden-Harris transition team adviser, but ICE and HHS had never before contracted with Endeavors and the contract was allegedly awarded without soliciting any other bids,” one version of the letter states.
Republicans also asked why the Biden administration is doling out costly contracts to house migrants in hotels when ICE has several residential centers specifically designed to hold families, which are mostly vacant.
“In light of these vacancies at established federal facilities, the need for ICE’s no-bid contract with Endeavors is even more questionable,” the letter states. “The Biden border crisis is the direct result of the radical immigration policies of President Biden. Rather than reserve these radical policies and reimplement the successful policies of President Trump, the Biden Administration is wasting taxpayer money on an unnecessary no-bid contract to a company with insider connections.”
The lawmakers are seeking a list of hotels used to house both children and families, the types of rooms booked, the number of meals served per day, the date of every person’s stay, and a full record of costs that Endeavors has incurred. Seven hotels are being used to house families, though it is not clear how children in Pecos are being held.
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