Politics Group given $87M contract to shelter migrants solicits donations to fly families from border
CBP deletes press release about arrest of two Yemeni border crossers
By Ted Hesson and Mark HosenballWASHINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) - U.S. border agents in recent months arrested two Yemeni men on a terror watchlist crossing On Monday, CBP announced how two Yemeni nationals who were placed on the FBI's terror watchlist were arrested in California after crossing illegally from Mexico into the United States.
A nonprofit organization that was given an $87 million federal contract to house migrant families temporarily in hotels is asking for donations to fly those families to their destinations across the country.
Spending any charitable donations could expose the organization, Family Endeavors, to legal problems while it is responsible for holding tens of thousands of children and families in Arizona and Texas over the next six months, according to two lawyers who are experts on government oversight matters.
Family Endeavors last month won an $87 million contract from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that other companies were not permitted to bid on. The deal mandated that the nonprofit organization would facilitate transportation of the families from the Border Patrol stations where they are held after being apprehended on the border to the hotels, as well as any emergency transportation from the hotel to medical facilities such as hospitals, and rides to airports or bus stations for families to travel once they are released into the country.
Biden Confronts Border Surge With Key Immigration Jobs Unfilled
President Joe Biden is confronting an influx of migrants at the southern U.S. border without permanent leaders at key agencies that oversee immigration enforcement and shelters, threatening to hamper the administration’s response to a growing crisis. Biden has yet to nominate a commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, which apprehends migrants attempting to illegally cross the border and controls ports of entry. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the office that runs shelters for children and teens arriving without parents, also lacks a nominee.
EXCLUSIVE: ICE GAVE $87 MILLION NO-BID CONTRACT TO BUSINESS WITH BIDEN TIES, RAISING CONFLICT OF INTEREST QUESTIONS
After being awarded the contract, the organization’s senior director, Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, posted on his personal LinkedIn account in April asking for public donations to cover the costs of families' flights and bus fares from the hotels.
“Friends and family — My Endeavors team is on the front lines along the SW border helping asylum-seeking families and unaccompanied children. We need your help to secure onward travel arrangements for our families staying in our shelters. Any help would be greatly appreciated! (Post is shareable) #charity,” Lorenzen-Strait wrote in the post.
He shared a post from his employer, which refers to theas “shelters” and did not mention that the organization had received a large contract to cover the 80,000 families expected to spend three nights each at the hotels.
Migrant encounters up 71% in March as Biden administration grapples with border
U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered 18,890 unaccompanied children at the southern border in March, a 100% increase from February.U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered more than 172,000 people trying to enter the U.S. along the southwest border in March – up from the 100,441 in February, according to Biden administration officials' analysis of the numbers, which were released Thursday.
“While many families have the financial resources to make it to the cities and communities of their intended destination, others are less fortunate. Should you wish to assist our shelter staff in securing travel arrangement for these families your financial contribution would be welcomed,” the Family Endeavors release states. “A donation to Endeavors is more than a tax-deductible charitable donation — your gift can help ease the strain on newly arrived migrant families. Donate today and help those seeking protection in our country.”
The organization recommends making a financial gift of $100 for a “land or air voucher” for one person, $325 to pay for a family of three, or $450 for a family of four. However, in most cases, families of two people show up at the border, so it is not clear why the organization is seeking four-person packages. Donors can also give $75 for a “travel resource backpack” that includes water, snacks, face masks, hand sanitizer, two adult shirts, two child shirts, two child toys, and a $25 Visa card for meals on the day of travel.
Policy changes help drive US migrant crossings to new highs
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Paying a smuggler, Edgar Mejia could afford to take only one child with him to the United States. He chose his 3-year-old “warrior” son, leaving his 7- and 12-year-olds with their mother in Honduras. “Pitifully, I had use him like a passport to get here,” Mejia said last week after picking up milk from volunteers at a Brownsville, Texas, bus station for the last leg of their journey to join relatives in Atlanta. “I am here because of him.” Mejia, 32, and his son, who paid a smuggler $6,000 for a “new dream” that Honduras couldn't provide, are among the Border Patrol's nearly 170,000 encounters with migrants on the U.S.
An attorney for the Project On Government Oversight, a nonpartisan organization that investigates corruption in government, told the Washington Examiner that soliciting public donations will open Family Endeavors to “liability.”
“While there are some risks and liabilities, I hope that all the money raised goes to the cause and the company performs the mission,” Scott Amey, general counsel for POGO, wrote in a follow-up email. “Now isn't the time to line pockets and strand people all around the country.”
Carol Thompson, a partner with the Washington-based Federal Practice Group law firm, reviewed the contract and said Family Endeavors may be forced to explain how it spends any donations.
“One thing that I would focus on, though, are their invoices and what they are billing the government for,” Thompson wrote in an email. “Understanding it’s a fixed fee contract, this may give some concern that they are potentially submitting false claims (invoices)."
"Their willingness to use the contract to promote themselves and their own styled 'charity' could be indicative of their underlying business practices (coupled with the concerning manner in which they received the contract in the first instance)," Thompson said, adding that her comments were speculative as she did not know the specifics of the situation.
Go Inside! Bethenny Frankel Lists Her $3 Million Connecticut Home
Moving on! Bethenny Frankel is selling her Greenwich, Connecticut home for $3 million. Us Weekly confirmed on Friday, April 9, that the colonial-style house is officially for sale. The Skinnygirl founder, 50, purchased the home last year and oversaw a ton of major renovations before putting it back on the market. Listed by Jeffrey Jackson at Centric Property Group, the 4,700-square-foot house includes five bedrooms, four-and-a-half bathrooms, three fireplaces and an outdoor pool. There’s also a huge walk-in closet complete with built-in shelving for handbags and shoes — one of Frankel’s own touches, according to an Us insider. The reality star is hard at work on The Big Shot With Bethenny, a new unscripted competition series from HBO Max. In the eight-episode series, the New York native will search for a second-in-command to work with her at Skinnygirl. The show is the first project she’s undertaking as part of her production deal with Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett. “Aside from motherhood, what truly defines me as a person is being a driven, passionate and hard-working woman determined to make the impossible possible,” she said in a February 2020 statement about the show. “My mantra is to come from a place of ‘yes’ and to find and create the solution. I am an executor of visions, and I share and impart that information to those who work with me.
Family Endeavors responded to a request for comment from the Washington Examiner on Friday and said that the solicitation of donations was separate from its contracted duties.
"There is no provision in the agreement to provide transportation of families beyond the hub, and no public funds are being used to do so. Endeavors, like many other nonprofits, is seeking private support to ensure migrant families without the means to procure transportation to their final destination are able to do so," the email read.
Amey, who was interviewed before Family Endeavors responded to a request for comment, applauded the group's efforts to raise money and help with travel planning, adding the provision of travel services out of government care is overlooked in the process and that it was "admirable" for the organization to step in.
House and Senate lawmakers havewith questions about the connections between Family Endeavors and the Biden administration, specifically Lorenzen-Strait, who was previously identified by several individuals with knowledge of the situation as having brokered the deal, as well as a to house unaccompanied children.
On Jan. 20, Family Endeavors announced that Lorenzen-Strait would become its senior director for migrant services and federal affairs. He previously worked on the Biden-Harris transition office's homeland security policy team, where he vetted political appointees for the HHS. He worked at ICE from 2008 to 2019. His immediate supervisor prior to leaving was Tae Johnson, who has since been promoted to acting director of ICE and would have the final say on the $87 million contract.
Opinion: Republicans are politicizing the border and children's lives
Julián Castro writes that Republicans' fear-mongering and gaslighting regarding the increase in unaccompanied migrant minors in the US southern border shows a disturbing hypocrisy and how detached from reality they are.Like the children arriving at our border every day, my grandmother came to the US from Mexico at seven years old seeking a better life. She worked as a maid, a cook and a babysitter to provide for her family. Two generations later, one of her grandsons is serving in Congress and the other had the opportunity to serve in President Barack Obama's cabinet.
Another ICE official, Claire Trickler-McNulty, used to work for Lorenzen-Strait before he left ICE in 2019. Trickler-McNulty was given full authority over acquisitions and contracts despite working outside that office, a move that one source said earlier this month was “extremely unusual.”
The top seven executives of Family Endeavors pulled in six-figure salaries that stretched between $100,000 and $315,000, according to 2018 tax records.
ICE directed the Washington Examiner to Family Endeavors for comment.
Tags:, , , , , , , ,
'Not afraid to shoot': Migration raises tension in Texas border town .
'Not afraid to shoot': Migration raises tension in Texas border townDEL RIO, Texas (Reuters) - Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez is worried.