- Federal officials reportedly ignored requests to buy underwear for migrant children detained at the Fort Bliss emergency intake site near El Paso, Texas, according to a whistleblower complaint filed Wednesday.
- “I don’t have time for this shit,” a senior federal manager reportedly said when approached about using charge cards to buy needed underwear and other clothing items for migrant children at a Walmart or Costco in El Paso, Texas, according to the whistleblowers.
- Contractors repeatedly told volunteers working at the facility they didn’t have enough underwear for the migrant children because the shipments hadn’t come in, according to the whistleblowers.
Federal officials reportedly ignored requests to buy underwear for migrant children detained at the Fort Bliss emergency intake site near El Paso, Texas, according to a whistleblower complaint filed by the Government Accountability Project on Wednesday.
Whistleblowers Arthur Pearlstein, the director of arbitration and of the office of shared neutrals at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and Social Security Administration Attorney-Advisor Lauren Reinhold served as volunteer “detailees” at Fort Bliss from April to June 2021 reported gross mismanagement of the facility and harm to unaccompanied migrant minors, according to the complaint. Detailees suggested using federal credit cards to purchase supplies since they could be reimbursed for the cost, though the idea was shot down by a senior federal manager.
“I don’t have time for this shit,” a senior federal manager reportedly said when approached about using the cards to buy needed underwear and other clothing items for migrant children at a Walmart or Costco in El Paso, Texas, according to Pearlstein. Management officials never explained the incident.
This whistleblower complaint is reflective of the concerns I have raised with @HHSgov.
Prolonged stays and lack of information creates uncertainty and exacerbates mental health challenges. https://t.co/ePBPUB4hoa
— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) July 28, 2021
Contractors repeatedly told the detailees they didn’t have enough underwear for the migrant children because the shipments hadn’t come in, according to the whistleblowers. Officials working at the facility were “well aware” of the shortage of underwear, socks and shoes, the complaint said.
“The problem persisted for weeks and months,” according to the whistleblowers. “Countless children reported these shortages to detailees. Boys said they had no underwear at all, while most simply had only one pair with nothing to change into.”
The facility held up to 1,200 unaccompanied migrant minors at the facility’s “airplane hangar-sized” tents with between 500 and 1,000 kids housed in each of 10 tents in May and June, according to the complaint. Overcrowding at the facility led to an accumulation of dirty laundry and trash inside the tents.
“I’ve been into one [tent], one time, and I was like, yeah, I’m not going back there,” an unnamed Chenega senior manager said, according to the complaint. “They’re filthy. They’re dirty. There’s food on the floor. There’s wet spots all over the place. The beds are dirty.”
The Chenega Corporation is an Alaska-based company that contracts with the federal government to manage the tents and provide mental health care services for the migrants, according to the complaint.
Riots occurred in some of the migrant boys tents in May, though the detailees weren’t trained on how to respond to such instances and officials never briefed them on what happened, according to the whistleblowers.
Hundreds of migrant children reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 and several federal employees contracted the virus, according to the complaint. The kids weren’t given enough masks and employees didn’t enforce their use.
“Every effort was made to downplay the degree of COVID infection at the site, and the size of the outbreak was deliberately kept under wraps,” according to the complaint. “A senior U.S. Public Health Service manager was asked and refused to say how many were infected because ‘if that graph [of infections] is going to The Washington Post every day, it’s the only thing we’ll be dealing with and politics will take over, perception will take over, and we’re about reality, not perception.’”
The manager would only say that several children were hospitalized with the virus, according to the whistleblowers. (RELATED: Immigration Advocates Silent As Detained Migrant Children Allegedly Cut Wrists, Suffer Panic Attacks)
Facility managers “resisted” detailees when they tried to report an instance of construction workers “lewdly and loudly” gawking at migrant girls walking between tents outside, according to the complaint.
The migrant children were constantly worried for their safety and reported feeling anxious about their immigration cases, according to the whistleblowers. Many of the kids experienced depression and several were placed on suicide watch.
The whistleblowers reported significant “waste, fraud and abuse” to federal managers who blamed the private contractors running the facility, according to the complaint. Detailee complaints were “met with dismissal or retribution” and they said they were seriously concerned for the migrant children when they left Fort Bliss.
The Department of Health and Human Services, the agency responsible for overseeing Fort Bliss, did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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