Unaccompanied children held at an immigration detention camp in the Texas desert suffered substandard living conditions and mistreatment by contracted staff including employees of an emergency cleanup company, as well as neglect and indifference from Biden administration officials, according to a whistleblower complaint first reported Wednesday by NBC News\u0026#039; Julia Ainsley.\r\n\r\n\u0022The contractor providing direct supervision of the children in the dormitory tents—Servpro—is a fire and water damage repair company.\u0022\r\n—Whistleblowers\u0026#039; complaint\r\n\r\nThe complaint (pdf) to Congress, filed by the Government Accountability Project on behalf of career civil servants Laurie Elkin and Justin Mulaire, alleges \u0022gross mismanagement and specific endangerment to public health and safety at the Fort Bliss Emergency Intake Site (EIS) for unaccompanied children operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).\u0022\r\n\r\nElkin and Mulaire—who are both attorneys currently employed in the Chicago district office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)— were on temporary volunteer assignment with HHS from May 12 to June 2, 2021 caring for unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody at Ft. Bliss, a large military base located in the desert outside El Paso, Texas.\r\n\r\nThe complaint notes that at the base, \u0022thousands of children are housed for prolonged periods in enormous, undivided tents—perhaps the size of a football field.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nElkin and Mulaire, who were tasked with supervising children held in the tents—which each housed between 1,000 to 1,500 minors—believed conditions at the detention camp \u0022were placing children at risk,\u0022 and according to the complaint, both attorneys \u0022witnessed numerous instances of gross mismanagement, causing harm to children\u0026#039;s health and well-being.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe complaint states that \u0022perhaps the single greatest problem observed by Ms. Elkin and Mr. Mulaire was the use of wholly unsuitable contract staff.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe pair \u0022learned that the contractor providing direct supervision of the children in the dormitory tents—Servpro—is a fire and water damage repair company,\u0022 it says. \u0022Many of the Servpro staff\u0026#039;s t-shirts bore the Servpro corporate logo found on the internet, with some including the corporate logo: \u0026#039;As if it never happened.\u0026#039;\u0022\r\n\r\nAccording to its website, \u0022The Servpro Industries, LLC, franchise system is a national leader of fire, water, mold, and other specialty cleanup and restoration services.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022Youth care is not in its portfolio,\u0022 the complaint states, adding that contracted staff at the detention facility told the whistleblowers that \u0022they had received no training prior to beginning work and had little guidance about what their role was.\u0022\u0026nbsp;\r\n\r\n\u0022Many contract workers seemed to view their job more as crowd control than youth care,\u0022 the document alleges. \u0022While some individuals plainly meant well, other contract workers exhibited impatience with children and were plainly unsure of how to supervise them.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe complaint further alleges:\r\n\r\n\r\n\tAn inability to help children in distress due to the large number of both detained children and closely spaced bunk beds in the tents;\r\n\tIntolerable noise, including contractors\u0026#039; use of loudspeakers, a bullhorn, and a siren to wake children early in the morning;\r\n\tOdor and filth, including the stench of sewage, in tents;\r\n\tUbiquitous dust and sand;\r\n\tLack of clean clothes and bedding; and\r\n\tHostility, indifference, and resistance to detainees\u0026#039; needs and care.\r\n\r\n\r\nAccording to the complaint, in one instance Elkin \u0022discovered a girl in a bottom bunk who looked ghostly pale. The girl told Ms. Elkin that she had not had her period for months but was now bleeding profusely and did not feel well. Clearly, the girl needed medical attention.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022Elkin approached a contractor to request that the girl be taken to the medical tent,\u0022 the document states. \u0022The contractor responded by saying she was not allowed to take girls to the doctor. Ms. Elkin then brought the case to contractor\u0026#039;s supervisor who questioned why and if the girl needed to see a doctor. Ultimately, but only because of Ms. Elkin\u0026#039;s intervention, the girl received medical treatment.\u0022\r\n\r\nFurthermore, the complaint alleges widespread case management failures, including numerous children who \u0022seemed to have fallen through the cracks,\u0022 resulting in serious processing delays and \u0022unnecessary emotional distress.\u0022\r\n\r\nMiscommunication and lack of coordination were allegedly rife at the facility:\r\n\r\n\r\nEarly one morning a girl in Ms. Elkin\u0026#039;s tent was woken up and told that she was going home that morning. The girl, who had then been in the tent for 38 days, wept with joy and relief. She quickly changed into street clothes to look good and said her tearful goodbyes. She was then taken to the case management tent to wait for the bus with other children that were going home that day.\r\n\r\nMs. Elkin went to the case management tent to see the girl off. On the verge of leaving after more than seven weeks at the facility, the girl was suddenly pulled out of the bus line. She was told a \u0022mistake\u0022 had been made and that she was not going home. The girl collapsed in uncontrollable tears.\r\n\r\n\r\nThis wasn\u0026#039;t an isolated incident; according to the complaint, \u002247 additional children that very morning had also been told they were going home only to be pulled out of the bus line and sent back to their tents.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022Each day seemed to bring new examples of deficiencies in the care of the children and resulting risks to their health. Instances of gross mismanagement of the site were pervasive.\u0022\r\n—David Seide and Dana Gold, whistleblowers\u0026#039; attorneys\r\n\r\nElkin says one Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) official at the base told her: \u0022We are traumatizing these kids. This is terrible. This is horrible. People in Washington know. But this is an emergency situation and mistakes are going to happen.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe whistleblowers say they were told during orientation \u0022that the primary means of providing \u0026#039;feedback\u0026#039; about any problems they noticed was to send emails to a \u0026#039;suggestion box\u0026#039; at an HHS.gov address,\u0022 and that \u0022they were also told not to provide such feedback during their first 10 days on the job.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022Such gag orders are illegal,\u0022 the filing notes. \u0022The \u0026#039;anti-gag\u0026#039; provision of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act... specifically states that gag orders cannot be imposed on federal employees unless they are explicitly told that such orders do not apply when employees exercise their whistleblower rights.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe whistleblowers made at least four complaints to HHS management regarding the aforementioned and other incidents. They say they were ignored, told to use the suggestion box, or that reporting multiple problems would likely be \u0022perceived as a crying wolf situation.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022In sum, the time our clients spent at Fort Bliss was alarming,\u0022 David Seide and Dana Gold, the attorneys representing Elkin and Mulaire, said in the complaint. \u0022Each day seemed to bring new examples of deficiencies in the care of the children and resulting risks to their health. Instances of gross mismanagement of the site were pervasive.\u0022\r\n\r\nSeide and Gold continued:\r\n\r\n\r\nHaving witnessed these things, as well as the despair of children who felt (often accurately) that they were being ignored or forgotten, our clients felt the need to speak out, yet were met with non-responsiveness at best and unlawful deterrence at worst. They volunteered for this detail as dedicated civil servants to further the mission of HHS and ORR to protect the well-being of the children at the Emergency Influx Sites. They are escalating these concerns now in service of that same mission.\r\n\r\nWhile they are encouraged by reports that some conditions may have improved recently, including the numbers of children currently housed at Fort Bliss, many of the problems they witnessed will continue to harm the hundreds of children at the site if they are not addressed. Whatever one might think about immigration policy, the reality is that these children are here now and are in HHS\u0026#039;s custody. HHS has a responsibility to make sure they are safe and treated humanely.\r\n\r\n\r\nAs Common Dreams reported earlier this year, the Biden administration\u0026#039;s decision to detain migrant children at Ft. Bliss was condemned by immigrant and environmental justice advocates both for humanitarian reasons and due to the presence of toxic hazards from past military operations.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAdvocates have also decried the administration\u0026#039;s skyrocketing detention and expulsion of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers—among them many children—including what Amnesty International last month called the \u0022dangerous and unconscionable\u0022 forced removal of thousands of unaccompanied minors without properly ensuring their safety.