Defense Contractors Are Cashing In On Incarcerated Migrant Children

Screengrab/PBS Newshour/YouTube

A scandal-plagued company that previously worked for the CIA is likely soon to profit from housing migrant children.

The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that is seeing more undocumented immigrants prosecuted and greater numbers of children separated from their parents has been a boon to intelligence and defence contractors, according to the Daily Beast.

Those contractors—including one with a history of scandals—have advertised a flurry of jobs in recent weeks to support the infrastructure surrounding undocumented children whom the Trump administration has taken from their families.

One of them, from Virginia-based MVM Inc., seeks a compliance coordinator to help in San Antonio with the “rapid deployment of an Emergency Influx Shelter for unaccompanied children.” As billed, the coordinator would ensure the children’s shelter met “policies and procedures” set by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. MVM posted the job on its website this week.

Matthew Kolken, an immigration attorney who often represents children, told the Daily Beast he has grave concerns about the quality of such contractors' childcare services:

“I’m guessing that in their mission statement, one of the central components isn’t the care of refugee children,” he said. “It is mind-blowing that those types of industries would be even considered with respect to the care of children. They’re not equipped to be able to do it. Would you want your child to be dropped off in their hands? I know I wouldn’t.”

The uncertainty surrounding the quality of care unaccompanied children will receive is only compounded by the fact that many experienced trauma in their home countries, only to be taken from their parents once they reach the border – and then handed over to government sponsored care.

Many such children experienced “dire poverty, war, forced military or gang recruitment, human trafficking, domestic violence, abuse, familial separation and government neglect.” These include “very young” children, mostly with minimal education, and after “apprehension by DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] and transfer to ORR, these children face a complicated legal system.”

Asked if intelligence and defence contractors are the right choice for this job, Joe Arabit, the director of MVM’s homeland security and public safety division, told the Daily Beast that ensuring the well-being of migrant children is their top priority:

“MVM, Inc.’s top priority is the welfare of children while they are in our care. We are a trusted partner of ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and ORR because of the respect and dedication with which we treat those whom we transport. Managing the transportation, security, and shelter needs of these children is a highly sensitive matter, and the safety of those in our care is the most important thing. Per our contract, we are limited in what information we can share.”

Still, many are unsatisfied that placing children in such facilities is the wise way to address an influx in unaccompanied minors:

“It looks right now that the Trump administration’s policies regarding immigration is proving to be a relatively lucrative area for private contractors,” said Neil Gordon, an investigator with the Project on Government Oversight who maintains a contractor-misconduct database, though he wasn’t able to quantify the surge.

“I’m concerned with these companies’ track records. Have they been properly thoroughly vetted to ensure their performance histories are relatively satisfactory? Do they have recent cases of misconduct levied against them, any sort of pending legal or enforcement matters concerning issues of misconduct?”

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