Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Whistleblowers Claim Inadequate Care of Migrant Children

According to two federal workers who have come forward to file a whistleblower complaint to Congress, children housed in one of the Biden administration’s largest shelters for unaccompanied migrant minors were being watched over by contractors with no Spanish-language skills or experience in childcare.

The contractor for the Department of Health and Human Services, Servpro, specialized in cleanup after water, fire, and storm disasters. It shows no record of having handled a contract related to child welfare before it took on the case of almost 5,000 children who were housed at the facility at Fort Bliss in Texas.

Kim Brooks, a spokeswoman for Servpro Industries said that the contract was entered into by a franchise holder without the company’s knowledge and that therefore Servpro didn’t have a comment on the specific allegation. “When we became aware of this issue, we immediately advised the franchise operator that these are not approved Servpro service offerings. We have been informed by the franchise operator that it is no longer providing these services through the Servpro franchise” Brooks said. Servpro has more than 1,700 franchisees.

Two federal workers detailed to Fort Bliss, Laurie Elkin and Justin Mulaire, filed the complaint last week to publicly share their experiences at the facility under Servpro’s leadership from May to early June. Elkin and Mulaire are lawyers for the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Chicago who were temporarily employed at Fort Bliss when the Biden administration called for volunteers across the federal government to help deal with the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.

Elkin and Mulaire are represented by the Government Accountability Project, which filed the complaint on their behalf. The whistleblower’s attorneys said that “the conditions they witnessed caused physical, mental and emotional harm affecting dozens of children” an that management at Fort Bliss ignored their concerns. The complaint doesn’t claim illegal behavior but rather gross mismanagement and a threat to public health and safety.

Immigration advocates have called for the Biden administration to end the use of emergency intake shelters like Fort Bliss and to use only facilities that operate under state licensing requirements for children specially as the number unaccompanied migrant children in the care of Health and Human Services has declined from more than 20,000 to less than 15,000.