FIRST ON FOX: Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are pushing the Biden administration on a “no-bid” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contact that was awarded to a company with ties to a Biden transition adviser — and that was criticized in a recent report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
The lawmakers, led by House Oversight Ranking Member James Comer, R-Ky., and Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Cloud, R-Texas, have written to acting ICE Director Tae Johnson expressing”alarm at the potential waste of millions of taxpayer money and abuse of the contracting process by U.S. [ICE] officials.”
ICE SPENT $17M OF NO-BID CONTRACT TO HOUSE MIGRANTS IN HOTELS THAT WENT LARGELY UNUSED: DHS WATCHDOG
“Not only have the Biden administration’s policies exacerbated the crisis on our border, it now appears the administration is exploiting the crisis to reward its political allies with sole source contracts,” they write.
ICE entered into the $86.9 million “sole source” (commonly called a “no-bid”) contract with a company called Endeavors, rather than through a competitive bidding process. The contract saw Endeavors provide 1,239 beds and other services to migrants after ICE recognized its current family residential centers would be insufficient to house the number of migrants crossing the border.
The San Antonio-based nonprofit separately entered into a no-bid contract with the Department of Health and Human Services for more than $500 million. The contracts were controversial because Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, a former Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official who also served as a Biden transition advisor on Homeland Security issues is on the company’s board.
The DHS Office of Inspector General reviewed the contract and found that ICE was not justified in using a no-bid contract, which it awarded after receiving an unsolicited proposal from Endeavors, and that much of the space was unused as the contract required ICE pay for up to 1,239 beds no matter how many were used.
“ICE did not adequately justify the need for the sole source contract to house migrant families and spent approximately $17 million for hotel space and services at six hotels that went largely unused between April and June 2021,” the report says.
It says that usage ranged from an average of 21% in one hotel to 45% in another.
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“ICE’s sole source contract with Endeavors resulted in millions of dollars being spent on unused hotel space,” the report says.
The report was also critical of Endeavors, finding it did not meet new health care protocols related to COVID-19 and did not follow standards to ensure proper care for housing migrant families.
ICE disagreed with parts of the report, saying it was justified in the use of the no-bid contract, which was allowed under an exemption for “unusual and compelling urgency” the agency was facing due to the border crisis. While it agreed with the need for an assessment of housing, it disagreed with the report’s other findings, arguing that its testing protocols are sufficient and that ICE “ensured that Endeavors was in compliance with FRS at the Emergency Family Staging Centers.’
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Endeavors defended its conduct, saying that “[w]hen the federal government sought help to address the influx of migrants at our southern border, Endeavors answered the call.”
“We agree with ICE and its conclusion that Endeavors followed appropriate protocols and met the standard of care for migrant families in this contract. For Endeavors, lending our expertise to help ensure families are afforded care and services was simply the right thing to do and consistent with our mission of compassionately serving vulnerable people in crisis.”
The Oversight Republicans pointed to the “potential conflicts of interest” inherent in the contract, given that Endeavors won the contracts after hiring Lorenzen-Strait, who they described as a “political ally of the administration” and who is a former ICE official.
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The Republicans have requested a number of documents and answers related to the contract, including a copy of the contract itself, the proposal, and documents and communications related to the awarding of the contract
The letter is the latest push by Republicans for oversight on the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis at the southern border. Last week, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was grilled by Republicans on multiple House committees about the crisis. Separately, more than 130 Republicans quizzed the official in a letter, in which they expressed “grave concerns” about his suitability for office.