A bid request posted to a website for federal contractors in January indicates that the federal government was aware of a heavy influx of children coming to the U.S. illegally.
But the Department of Homeland Security, through its immigration and border protection agencies, has only recently began publicly addressing the surge of Unaccompanied Children, or UACs, that have traveled to the U.S., many of whom have been apprehended at the U.S. border.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, posted a bid request for “Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children” on Jan. 29 at the site, FedBizOpps.gov, looking for contractors to help transport and care for the UACs.
“The Contractor shall provide unarmed escort staff, including management, supervision, manpower, training, certifications, licenses, drug testing, equipment, and supplies necessary to provide on-demand escort services for non-criminal/non-delinquent unaccompanied alien children ages infant to 17 years of age, seven  days a week, 365 days a year,” reads the bid request.
A majority of the UACs are between 12 and 17 years old. Most of them hail from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
“Transport will be required for either category of UAC or individual juveniles, to include both male and female juveniles,” reads the bid request. “There will be approximately 65,000 UAC in total: 25% local ground transport, 25% via ICE charter and 50% via commercial air.”
The Department of Homeland Security has put the Federal Management Emergency Agency in charge of managing the surge. The Department of Health and Human Services helps place the UACs at temporary facilities while they await deportation proceedings.
UACs have been sent to military bases in California, Texas, and Oklahoma. HHS has also explored sending the children to other facilities throughout the U.S.
At a hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security held Tuesday, Georgia U.S. Rep. Paul Broun quizzed DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson about the bid request.
“I don’t know where this estimate comes from or what it’s based on, so I can’t comment,” said Johnson.
Johnson said that since he became head of DHS last December he knew that a rising tide of UACs were coming to the U.S. The issue became a top priority in April and May, Johnson said.