In late December, the feds told the Associated Press that the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, a migrant camp holding 1,300 immigrant children outside of Miami, would add 1,000 extra beds sometime in 2019.
While immigrant-rights groups maintain the facility is a humanitarian nightmare — one family that spoke to New Times said their loved one there was trapped in a "child prison" — the news is great for private contractors. It appears the government has begun handing out new contracts. On December 22, the federal Office of Health and Human Services awarded the Calfornia company American Canyon Solutions a brand-new, $60.5 million deal for "facility management services" at the compound. The federal government has so far forked over $10 million of that amount.
That's a pretty huge jump from last year when the Miami Herald reported American Canyon Solutions, also known as "Brookstone Emergency Services," inked a contract worth just $13.2 million. It's unclear exactly what services the company is proffering, but the Brookstone website shows the corporation provides both tent-city equipment — trailers, bedding, portable showers, and water units — and "base-camp management" services including food catering and medical support.
The group advertises itself online as "one of the nation’s largest, most progressive and prominent emergency and disaster preparedness contractors."
The Cape Canaveral-based Comprehensive Health Services looks to make a pretty penny too. The government last awarded Comprehensive Health a contract in July 2018; that contract, which could last until October 2019, could net the company as much as $190 million. In October, the news outlet Quartz calculated that with the new Comprehensive Health contract in place, the Homestead shelter was costing taxpayers $500,000 per day to operate.
(The Herald has previously reported that a third contractor, General Dynamics, was in May awarded a $1.6 million contract to help provide "training and technical assistance" at the facility.)
The government is likely to soon send even more money to Comprehensive Health, as the company's current contract only covers 1,300 beds. In 2015, when the Obama administration opened the facility as a spillover site for unaccompanied kids housed at the border, the feds handed Comprehensive Health a whopping $388 million contract. However, the Obama administration shut the facility down before the government paid the full amount.
But New Times first reported in July that the Trump administration had reopened the facility in February 2018 and placed 1,300 kids there with little public disclosure. (Multiple lawmakers had been briefed on the issue but neglected to tell the public.) News outlets later confirmed some of the children in the compound had been taken from their parents at the U.S. border as part of a deeply inhumane Trump Administration policy that all-but-certainly violates international law.
A different company, BCFS, runs the government's other major migrant compound in Tornillo, Texas. (Congresspeople announced earlier today that the camp at Tornillo is closing and that all 2,800 kids at the facility are being moved elsewhere.) A third Texas contractor, Southwest Key, however, has suffered international scorn over allegations of child abuse at its facilities. The New York Times earlier this month said if Southwest Key were to lose its shelter contracts, Comprehensive Health was almost certain to gain control of the facilities.
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But Comprehensive Health has also been accused of mismanagement and neglect. New Times first reported last year that the company paid a $3.8 million medical-fraud settlement — and received a huge tax break from then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott five months later.
Workers at the Homestead compound have also been caught abusing kids: One woman who worked there during the Obama Administration was ultimately convicted of sending lewd text messages to a child migrant and attempting to solicit nude photographs from him. The Associated Press also recently reported that the federal government was not conducting FBI fingerprint checks or child welfare screenings on employees at the facility. In August, New Times reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was likely breaking the law by handcuffing children at the facility on their 18th birthdays and immediately shipping them to adult detention centers.
In June, New Times spoke to a woman who'd been stuck inside the compound when Obama was still president. She and her family described the facility as a confusing, bureaucratic nightmare. "It seemed like they were never going to let her go," one of her legal guardians said. "It wasn’t easy. I can’t imagine other people that aren’t maybe as adept at talking on the phone with bureaucracies and doing paperwork. We had to do this runaround. It seems designed to wear you down."
Correction: This story previously misstated the name of the contractor in charge of the migrant camp in Tornillo, Texas. The contractor is BCFS.