June 26, 2019

Senator Warren Joins Senator Schatz and Other Senators Calling for an Investigation of Federal Contractors in Charge of Migrant Children

Senators Urge HHS and GAO To Examine Potential Breach of Contract By Companies After Reports of Hungry, Sick, Unbathed Children in Custody

WASHINGTON – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and seven other senators calling for the federal government to investigate federal contractors in charge of migrant children detained after crossing the U.S. southern border. The letters to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the suspension and debarment official and inspector general at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were sent after disturbing reports of hungry, sick, and unbathed children being held in federal contractor facilities near the border.
“Based on recent reports, there is significant evidence that some federal contractors and grantees have not provided adequate accommodations for children in line with legal and contractual requirements,” the senators wrote. “In one such report, children in a facility near El Paso, Texas were given inadequate food, water, and sanitation. Further, it was reported that older children were taking care of infants and that there was an outbreak of the flu due to improper medical care. These news reports build on previous reports from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services indicating that many of the federal contractors and grantees charged with the care of migrant children, both by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security, have not complied with all applicable federal and state policies and requirements. This is especially troubling given that the children in their care are often young and unable to advocate for their interests.”
In addition to Senators Warren and Schatz, the letter was signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Robert Casey (D-Pa.).
All three letters asked for government officials to determine whether federal contractors and grantees are in breach of contractual obligations or federal regulations and should therefore face financial consequences, including loss of contracts.
Yesterday, Senator Warren spoke out on social media about reports of deplorable conditions for migrant children:
One year ago, I was in McAllen to see the families ripped apart by the Trump admin. A year later, his administration is fighting to make sure the kids held in those cages don’t have soap or toothbrushes. This is a humanitarian crisis, and @realDonaldTrump is responsible for it.
Senator Warren has called for better oversight of contractors and the federal agencies that have hired them since the Trump administration began separating migrant children from their parents and putting individuals in cages, raising serious concerns about the health, safety, and well-being of individuals detained at the border:

  • In November 2018, Senator Warren led ten of her Senate colleagues in sending letters to the two largest private immigration detention contractors in the United States requesting information about the companies' compliance with federal immigration detention standards following a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) report about unsafe conditions and mistreatment of immigrants at a number of privately-run immigration detention centers.
  • In April 2019, she led her colleagues in writing to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in response to the findings of the senators' investigation of private prison companies' compliance with federal immigration detention standards, which revealed that neither the private prison companies nor their private auditor have taken responsibility for grievous failures identified by the DHS IG.
  • Last month, Senator Warren sent a letter to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requesting information regarding recent reports that five children who had been in CBP custody died over the course of six months, and to get answers on steps CBP is taking to protect children in its care.
  • Late last month, the Senator opened an investigation into the accreditation process for private detention operators following widespread reports of mismanagement and poor conditions for detainees in facilities nationwide.
  • Last week she questioned ICE officials about the agency’s reported misuse of solitary confinement at detention facilities.