The federal government continues to maintain a great deal of secrecy around the influx of what it calls "unaccompanied alien children" or UAC. At the same time, U.S. taxpayers are being asked to fund programs to process and care for them.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) recently wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell stating, [quote]“If Congress is going to appropriate funding for the department to provide care and custody for this vulnerable population, it deserves to know how taxpayer dollars are going to be spent.”[/quote]
Grassley also raised questions about a charity called Southwest Key Programs that "received $368 million in federal government grants over the past six years and more than $122 million alone from the Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement in 2014. According to the non-profit’s 2012 Form 990, it receives 98.76 percent of its support from taxpayer dollars."
To date, Grassley says his questions to HHS have gone unanswered. Among other queries, he asked for information about who the unaccompanied minors are being released to, the health issues facing the unaccompanied minors, and the decision to move millions of dollars away from service for legal refugees.
On June 25, Grassley requested HHS provide information on its contracts related to handling of the illegal immigrant children. That request, he says, went unanswered. He reiterated it in a letter on July 17, which specifically asked about non-profit BCFS.
[quote]It has been over six weeks since the initial request for information and over one month since the previous letter was sent. I have received neither answers nor responsive documents.[/quote]
Grassley has posed the following new questions and asked HHS for answers by Sept. 5.
1. The names of the (HHS) contractors and all identifying information about them, including –their location.
2. What kinds of checks are done on relatives, parents and other guardians? Specifically, what databases are checked and what other agencies help HHS with the checks?
3. What statute, regulation or court order mentions that HHS must release minors into the custody of other non-relative guardians?
4. Why doesn’t HHS report to (Department of Homeland Security) DHS about whom and where the UAMs are released to?
5. Are there any examples of sponsor shopping and what you do with that information? My staff followed up on this matter, asking about a recent report about a woman who has taken more than 800 kids into custody for people here illegally.
6. Do you have a summary of the health issues facing the UAM population?
a. Are kids with contagious diseases treated by HHS?
b. Are they released even when contagious?
c. What types of diseases are you seeing?
d. Is the Office of Refugee Resettlement coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control?
7. A copy of the reprogramming request made to appropriators about moving $94 million from legal refugee services to the UAMs.
8. Explain in more detail why HHS is paying up to $1,000 per day for housing unaccompanied minors and families who have entered illegally.
9. How many contracts has BCFS been awarded from 2010 to the present? What is the total cost of these contracts?
10. How many grants has BCFS been awarded from 2010 to the present? What is the total cost of these grants?
11. Please provide all communications and contract documents related to BCFS’ proposed contract and the Palm Aire Hotel and Suites facility, even if the contract is no longer under consideration.
12. Please provide all audits of grantees receiving HHS funds from the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
13. For fiscal year 2014, what percentage of the funds obligated to grantees by the Office of Refugee Resettlement have been used for administrative expenses? Please provide a detailed breakdown of these expenses.
14. Please provide all OMB A-133 forms for grantees receiving funds from HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.
15. Please provide documentation that grantees are complying with OMB A-122 standards.
16. Please provide all grantee reports to HHS on their progress towards meeting stated program goals.
17. Please provide all communications between HHS and Southwest Key related to UAMs in 2014.
18. Please provide all grant and contract documents between HHS and Southwest Key Programs.