Businesses have made millions off Trump's child separation policy

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s controversial child separation policy is being carried out with the help of private businesses who have received millions of dollars in government contracts to help run the shelters where young migrants are being held away from their parents.

The government has released few photos of the shelters where the children are being detained and at times declined to allow media and even elected officials access to the facilities. Amid this secrecy, many of the businesses participating in the program have remained behind the scenes without being identified.

However, by reviewing publicly available contracts data, Yahoo News was able to identify five companies that are participating in the operation of the shelters, including two companies that have not previously been tied to the program. And in response to inquiries, one of the companies said it would cease participation in a program that required it to “maintain readiness” to transport young migrants to government facilities.

RELATED: 'Tent city' for immigrant children separated from parents in Texas

12 PHOTOS
'Tent city' for immigrant children separated from parents in Texas
See Gallery
'Tent city' for immigrant children separated from parents in Texas
Raymondville, UNITED STATES: A futuristic USD 65 million tent city designed to hold about 2,000 illegal immigrants is pictured 10 April 2006 in Raymondville, Texas. The newly-constructed barbed-wire enclosed camp in the Rio Grande Valley will hold illegal immigrants for weeks to years until they can be returned to their home countires by US officials. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. Picture taken June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The inside of a dormitory at the Tornillo facility, a shelter for children of detained migrants, is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in Tornillo, Texas, U.S., June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS Picture taken June 14, 2018. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, walk in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The Tornillo facility, a shelter for children of detained migrants, is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in Tornillo, Texas, U.S., June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS Picture taken June 14, 2018. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents by the Department of Homeland Security next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Immigrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under a new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are shown walking in single file between tents in their compound next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The Tornillo facility, a shelter for children of detained migrants, is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in Tornillo, Texas, U.S., June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS Picture taken June 14, 2018. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The Trump administration has given a series of conflicting explanations for the child separations with the president repeatedly falsely blaming it on Democrats. In reality, the situation is the result of a “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April that requires authorities to treat all border crossings outside official ports of entry as crimes. This means that adults are arrested when they cross the border and, typically, when a parent is jailed, their children are taken from them.

According to Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the agency currently operates “100 shelters across 17 states.” Citing “the safety and security of children in the program,” Wolfe declined to provide further details about the locations where the young migrants are being held. As of Tuesday morning, Wolfe said 11,786 children were being held as part of the “unaccompanied alien children program.” This program, which is run by ACF’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, is designed to offer “unaccompanied alien children entering the United States” a variety of services including “classroom education, health care, socialization/recreation, vocational training, mental health services, family reunification, access to legal services, and case management.” While this program was designed for “unaccompanied” children, who are typically teenagers driven out of their homes in Central America by poverty, abuse or gang violence, since the beginning of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy, there have been widespread reports of children as young as toddlers being taken away from their parents and brought to shelters. Wolfe told Yahoo News his agency defines “unaccompanied” as “any minor referred by [the Department of Homeland Security] to HHS for our unaccompanied alien children program.”

RELATED: Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart housing migrant children

13 PHOTOS
Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart housing migrant children
See Gallery
Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart housing migrant children
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
An occupant at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., is seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Occupants at Casa Padre, an immigrant shelter for unaccompanied minors, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., are seen in this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 14, 2018. ACF/HHS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Casa Padre, an unaccompanied minor shelter, is seen in Brownsville, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The data reviewed by Yahoo News was posted on the site GovTribe.com, which provides “real-time federal contract marketing data.” This information gives a glimpse of the recent growth of the government’s shelter system for young migrants and some of the companies who have lucrative contracts to participate in the program.

Contract vehicles are one of the mechanisms the U.S. government uses to award contracts to vendors. The data reviewed by Yahoo News was for a contract vehicle called “Shelter Care for Unaccompanied Children 2022.” This included 10 different contracts for up to approximately $92 million that were awarded to five different vendors starting in September 2017. The contracts include plans to operate the shelters through September 2022.

Comprehensive Health Services Inc. (CHSI), a Florida-based company that touts its experience with “immigrant shelter services” received the bulk of the contracts. According to GovTribe, the company was awarded three contracts worth up to about $65 million. The first contract awarded to CHSI through the vehicle kicked off in September 2017 and was for “emergency shelter operations.” It was worth at least $32.4 million. Later that month, the company was awarded a smaller $1.4 million contract for unspecified “emergency and other relief services.”

In February of this year, CHSI was awarded a contract through the vehicle worth $30.9 million to operate an “emergency shelter” in Homestead, Fla., with “500 UAC beds,” an acronym referring to “unaccompanied alien children.” That contract was modified last month to double the number of beds in the shelter. This presumably was the same shelter described in this article by the Miami Herald. Pictures obtained by the paper show the shelter includes large tents, a fenced in soccer field and crowded rows of beds.

RELATED: A look inside the operations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

20 PHOTOS
A look inside the operations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
See Gallery
A look inside the operations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (L), 53, arrests an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field, 53, arrests an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (R), 53, arrests Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. on February 9, 2017. Picture taken on February 9, 2017. Courtesy Bryan Cox/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers detain a suspect as they conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on February 7, 2017. Picture taken on February 7, 2017. Courtesy Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer helps out a few boys who are trying to make phone calls as they are joined by hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children that are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona June 18, 2014. CBP provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since October 1, 2013. REUTERS/Ross D. Franklin/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)
Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, disembark from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus at a Greyhound bus station in Phoenix, Arizona May 29, 2014. Local media reported that ICE had been releasing migrants who pose no security risk at Greyhound bus stations in Tuscon and Phoenix due to a lack of manpower, and those released have to make their own way to their declared U.S. destinations and are required to report to a local ICE office within 15 days. REUTERS/Samantha Sais (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officers arrive to a Flatbush Gardens home in search of an undocumented immigrant on April 11, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. New York is considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officer brings an undocumented immigrant into an ICE processing center on April 11, 2018 at the U.S. Federal Building in lower Manhattan, New York City. ICE detentions are especially controversial in New York, considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officer interviews an immigrant at an ICE processing center after officers arrested her on April 11, 2018 inside the U.S. Federal Building in lower Manhattan, New York City. ICE detentions are frequently controversial in New York, considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officers prepare for morning operations to arrest undocumented immigrants on April 11, 2018 in New York City. New York is considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officers look to arrest an undocumented immigrant during an operation in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn on April 11, 2018 in New York City. New York is considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officers depart after an operation to arrest an wanted undocumented immigrant on April 11, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. New York is considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), security officers watch over undocumented immigrant at an ICE processing center on April 11, 2018 at the U.S. Federal Building in lower Manhattan, New York City. ICE detentions are especially controversial in New York, considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officers arrive to a Flatbush Gardens home in search of a wanted undocumented immigrant on April 11, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. New York is considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A security officer looks out of a window at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in Washington DC on October 4, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer and a security officer look on at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in Washington DC on October 4, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 11: A law enforcement officer walks past ICE logo ahead of a press conference on Thursday, May 11, 2017, at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Washington, DC. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officers search undocumented immigrants after detaining them in raids and bringing them to an ICE processing center on April 11, 2018 at the U.S. Federal Building in lower Manhattan, New York City. ICE detentions are especially controversial in New York, considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officers stage a raid to arrest an undocumented immigrant in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn on April 11, 2018 in New York City. ICE detentions are frequently controversial in New York, considered a 'sanctuary city' for undocumented immigrants, and ICE receives little or no cooperation from local law enforcement. ICE said that officers arrested 225 people for violation of immigration laws during the 6-day operation, the largest in New York City in recent years. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Yahoo News contacted CHSI and the company’s President and CEO Gary G. Palmer to ask if it had any concerns about playing a role in the child separations. Palmer did not respond. Gail Hart, a CHSI spokesperson, referred all questions to the Department of Health and Human Services. The CHSI website claims its facilities are “compassionate” and boasts of its recent experience working on an HHS contract for a “rapid ramp-up of a large temporary shelter” for immigrants.

Dynamic Service Solutions, a Maryland firm, was awarded a contract worth up to $8.7 million from HHS through the “shelter care for unaccompanied children” vehicle in September 2017. The company has posted job openings online indicating it is hiring Spanish-speaking “youth care workers” to work with “unaccompanied alien children” in Homestead. Darnell Armstrong, president and CEO of Dynamic Service Solutions, referred all questions about his role in the child separation policy to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Southwest Key Programs was awarded two contracts through the vehicle in September 2017 worth up to $1.8 million each for “emergency shelter operations.” According to ABC News, Southwest Key, a nonprofit, runs 26 facilities for young migrants including Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas. Casa Padre, located in a cavernous former Walmart, is the largest licensed facility for immigrant children with a capacity of 1,500. ABC also reported that children who are held there are allowed to make two calls a week. The news network was among a group of media outlets and lawmakers, including Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., that toured Casa Padre on June 17. They were admitted after Merkley had been turned away from the facility two weeks earlier. After Merkley’s first attempt, Southwest Key Programs spokesperson Cindy Casares released a statement describing itself as a “humanitarian first responder, caring for immigrant children arriving in this country without a parent or guardian.”

“We provide round-the-clock services including: food, shelter, medical and mental health care, clothing, educational support, supervision, and reunification support,” the statement said.

Casares and Southwest Key Programs President Dr. Juan Sanchez did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Yahoo News about whether they were concerned the nonprofit is aiding child separation.

Dynamic Educational Systems, a subsidiary of the Arizona firm Exodyne, was awarded a pair of HHS contracts worth up to approximately $5.6 million for “emergency shelter operations.” One of the contracts specified it was for “unaccompanied children.” The company’s founder, chairman, and CEO Ralph Rockow, did not respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News. A woman who answered the phone at Exodyne Inc. on Tuesday laughed when we said we were calling to ask if executives there had concerns they might be helping separate children from their parents. The woman said Rockow and another person who could answer questions were both unavailable.

The fifth business with contracts through the HHS vehicle for “shelter care for unaccompanied children” is Virginia-based MVM. According to GovTribe, the company was awarded two contracts worth up to $9.5 million in September 2017 for “shelter operations” and for unspecified “emergency and other relief services.” Earlier this month, the Daily Beast reported MVM was looking to fill a number of positions, including a compliance coordinator to work in San Antonio on the “rapid deployment of an Emergency Influx Shelter for unaccompanied children.”

In response to an inquiry from Yahoo News, the company sent a statement saying it “has tremendous empathy for the families and children arriving at the U.S. border” and believed there was a “misperception of the role MVM is playing on the issue of unaccompanied immigrant children.”

“The current services MVM provides consist of transporting undocumented families and unaccompanied children to Department of Health and Human Services–designated facilities — we have not and currently do not operate shelters or any other type of housing for minors,” the statement said. “While these children and families are in our care, our priority is ensuring they are safe and treated with dignity and compassion. We have been providing these transport services since 2014 and take pride in the level of care these children receive from our dedicated, professional staff.”

According to the company’s statement, “MVM was one of several organizations awarded a contract to provide as-needed emergency support services” to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The company emphasized this was in 2017, “prior to the zero tolerance policy” that led to child separations. The data on GovTribe shows that, since then, the company has only provided $3,100 of services out of the nearly $9.5 million authorized in the contract.

MVM’s statement said the company does not expect to provide further services through the program. It also pledged the company would not take contracts that involved the child separation policy.

“At the direction of the company’s leadership, we have removed job postings related to readiness operations under the current zero tolerance policy,” the statement said. “MVM has not pursued any new contracts associated with undocumented families and children since the implementation of the current policy.”

Read more from YahooNews:

Read Full Story