Group Given Nearly $300 Million To House Child Immigrants; Improperly Disclosed Lobbying

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A Texas-based organization that has been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts by the Obama administration to house illegal immigrant children not only lobbied the federal government, but also failed to properly disclose the activity.

After The Daily Caller inquired about its lobbying disclosures, BCFS, a San Antonio-based nonprofit, now says it may correct its tax forms to properly disclose its lobbying expenditures.

The Obama administration, through the Department of Health and Human Services, has tapped BCFS, formerly known as Baptist Child & Family Services, to provide security and other services to unaccompanied children at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, and Ft. Sill army base near Lawton, Okla.

BCFS has become the largest provider of such services for the child immigrants, who are part of a massive influx of mostly Central Americans that has put the Obama administration on its heels. (RELATED: Obama Evades Murrieta Protests Over Border Breakdown)

The administration expects 90,000 unaccompanied children to be apprehended at the U.S. border by the end of the fiscal year, more than triple last year’s total. (RELATED: Obama Offers Mini-Amnesty To 200,000 Kids By 2016)

HHS has given BCFS $280 million in federal contracts for its services so far this year. Nearly all of that — $270 million — has been given for services for unaccompanied children. HHS has given BCFS $458 million in total, according to the Tracking Accountability in Government Grants System.

According to the Senate lobbying database, BCFS is the only organization that provides residential services directly for unaccompanied children that has spent money on lobbying.

Since 2006, BCFS has spent $210,000, according to a database maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In 2008, Congress passed an anti-trafficking law that requires the Department of Homeland Security to turn unaccompanied children from countries that do not border the U.S. over to the care of HHS. HHS then houses the children until they can be placed with relatives or sponsors while awaiting deportation proceedings.

In 2011, BCFS paid Madison Policy Group $20,000 to “advocate the continued appropriation levels for child welfare programs under HHS — Administration for Children & Families, including the Unaccompanied Alien Children account.”

BCFS paid Washington D.C. lobbying powerhouse Williams & Jensen $190,000 in total in 2006, 2007 and 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The lobbying was split between Congress and various agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS and HHS.

“BCFS has contracted with outside government relations firms; like many non-profits do,” BCFS spokeswoman Krista Piferrer told TheDC.

But a deeper analysis conducted by TheDC found inconsistencies in BCFS’s lobby expenditure reporting on its tax forms.

In response to the primary section of BCFS’s IRS 990 forms which asks whether organizations spent money on lobbying, the organization checked “No” in every year in which it lobbied.

Piferrer — a former spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry — explained, saying that the lobbying expenses were instead reported in the statement of functional expenses. The claim was partially true. The organization did not report some of the lobbying expenses in that section during the years they were incurred. But on its 2011 and 2012 tax forms, it reported around $190,000 in lobbying expenditures even though records show it did not spend that amount on lobbying during those years.

Piferrer said that in previous years, BCFS reported lobbying expenses under the “professional fees” line-item. However, such fees usually include legal fees and not lobbying expenses.

Pressed on the issue, Piferrer said, “We’re going to reach out to our private tax firm to review and consider amending [the tax form].”

TheDC’s request to further discuss BCFS’s finances with the organization’s financial department was not answered.

BCFS has emerged as the leading non-governmental organization working on the child immigration crisis. Kevin Dinnin, its CEO, recently met with President Obama, Gov. Perry, and other officials to discuss “faith-based” approaches to handling the crisis.

BCFS — when it was known as Baptist Child & Family Services — provided services in a number of emergency efforts, including following the aftermath of an earthquake in Haiti and the relocation of 555 members of a West Texas polygamist compound in 2008.

The organization first came to national attention during the latest immigration wave earlier this month when Fox News reported that the BCFS’s security personnel were threatening to arrest medical staff if they discussed the contagion threat at Lackland Air Force Base. BCFS personnel were also reportedly calling themselves “Brown Shirts” because of the tan T-shirts they wear.

The organization also decided to withdraw from a plan to spend $50 million to renovate a south Texas hotel to use as housing for unaccompanied children.

BCFS has benefited greatly from HHS programs to aid unaccompanied children. In fiscal year 2008, BCFS received $1.8 million in HHS funds. By 2009, HHS gave BCFS $7.8 million, mostly for new shelter programs for unaccompanied children.

The organization received $64 million from HHS in 2012, $61 million in 2013 and $280 million so far in 2014.

Dinnin’s income has increased along the way. In the 2006 tax year — which ended in Aug. 2007 — Dinnin was paid $184,000. In 2012 he was paid $397,000.

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