September 8, 2021

New, Detailed Whistleblower Evidence Further Documenting Abuses of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Warehoused by the Federal Government at Fort Bliss and Other Emergency Intake Sites

Government Accountability Project’s Third Whistleblower Complaint

WASHINGTON – Today, Government Accountability Project filed its third complaint with federal oversight agencies detailing abuses at the Fort Bliss, Texas Emergency Intake Site (EIS) and other EISs for undocumented immigrant children. Government Accountability Project’s first two complaints, dated July 7 and July 28, 2021, are attached as an exhibit to this third complaint.

The Fort Bliss EIS is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’s) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The children are in the custody of ORR. Ft. Bliss is one of several EISs holding them.

The information disclosed in this third complaint is from a Government Accountability Project client who wishes to remain anonymous. The client is a career federal civil servant who volunteered and served between April and May 2021 at Fort Bliss and two other EISs (now closed) located in Houston, Texas, and Erie, Pennsylvania. Like Government Accountability Project’s other whistleblower clients responsible for the first two complaints (Justin Mulaire, Laurie Elkin, Arthur Pearlstein, and Lauren Reinhold), this client, too, witnessed daily instances of gross mismanagement endangering public health and safety.

The third complaint is different than and elaborates on Government Accountability Project’s first two complaints in two areas. First, the third complaint reveals identical abuses at two other EISs demonstrating that the problems scale across the entire EIS network run by the HHS Administration for Children and Families (ACF) ORR and their private contractors. Fort Bliss was not unique.

Second, the third complaint includes detailed, contemporaneous summaries provided by staff of numerous and repeated violations of health; safety; and child welfare laws, regulations, and policies. The summaries were emailed daily to Fort Bliss managers between May 1 and May 6, 2021. In other words, HHS, ACF, and ORR knew about the recurring problems in real time and failed to remedy them.

Problems attributed to specific staffers include:

  • Staff in the COVID isolation tent “regularly employ group discipline (e.g., if one boy acts up all boys are punished) and refuses to allow bathroom trips at all during the day … [many] younger boys … have wet the bed as a result;”
  • “Children have burnt and blistered their skin from ‘skin lightening’ lotion provided to them rather than a safe moisturizing lotion;”
  • Concerns “about decibel level and chronic noise pollution in the tents, cafeteria, and portable bathrooms as well as vehicle and construction noise during the day. Concern[s] about heightened chronic stress and loss of hearing from perpetual noise for both children and staff;”
  • Tent staff “regularly threaten children with deportation;”
  • “Lights are left on 24 hours a day in tents … Tent sizes are too large to manage by the staff;”
  • Concerns raised by “seasoned federal employees who are fearful about retaliation for raising their concerns about their experience at Fort Bliss;” and
  • Child “appears to be ‘lost’ in the system without any contact from a case worker, which appears to be a systemic issue.”

Government Accountability Project Attorney David Z. Seide concludes the third complaint saying:

“This new evidence is shocking. It further reveals violations of fundamental human rights. It is no defense to assert that the reports of these conditions are now ‘old’ and have been ‘fixed.’ Problems in implementation and execution are not new, were to be expected, were prohibited by existing laws and regulations and should have never happened in the first place. Management could have and should have known better.”

Government Accountability Project’s complaints can be found here.

Contact: Andrew Harman, Communications Director
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 926-3304

Government Accountability Project

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.