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Migrant Child Detention

A young migrant waits for his turn to take a shower at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley in Donna, Texas on March 30, 2021. (Photo: Dario Lopez-Mills/AFP via Getty Images)

Amid Allegations of Child Endangerment, HHS Inspector General to Probe Fort Bliss Detention Facility

Whistleblowers had sounded alarm about the detention center contractors betraying children’s health and wellbeing.

Andrea Germanos

The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that it is launching a review into a Biden administration-run detention center that holds thousands of unaccompanied migrant children in Fort Bliss, Texas following whistleblower allegations of unsafe conditions.

The facility is one of the larger Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) set up to keep children out of Border Patrol custody, but human rights advocates say kids have languished there for too long and in conditions detrimental to their physical and mental well-being.

"This review will analyze interviews and on-site observations regarding case management challenges at Fort Bliss that may have impeded the safe and timely release of children to sponsors," the internal government watchdog stated. "This oversight will help ensure that Fort Bliss and other EISs provide adequate case management services."

Monday's announcement follows multiple whistleblower complaints about Fort Bliss.

In a complaint filed last week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a pair of whistleblowers cited problems including clothing shortages and children being told at an airport they were going back home only to be told it was a mistake and then returned to the facility.

Earlier last month, a separate pair of whistleblowers, in a complaint filed by GAO, cited "numerous instances of gross mismanagement" at Fort Bliss that cause harm to children’s "health and wellbeing."

Other problems in the "airplane hangar-sized tents" holding the children included "painfully loud music" from loudspeakers, dirty tents that smelled of sewage, children's distress being "met with indifference or even resistance," and "wholly unsuitable contract staff." Among the specific complaints about staff were individuals who "seemed to view their job more as crowd control than youth care."

MSNBC's "All in With Chris Hayes" on Friday dug into the concerns raised by the whistleblowers and why the facility was lacking necessary oversight:

NBC News correspondent Julia Ainsley told host Chris Hayes that the administration has so far pursued "piecemeal" approaches to addressing the problems rather than "a wholesale investigation to Fort Bliss and of other emergency intake facilities and to get to the bottom of why these contractors got this contract in the first place."

Instead of an IG review, Ainsley said "you would want someone to come in right away and see if someone needs to be immediately removed from caring for these children."


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