Companies that make millions off of facilitating the separation immigrant kids won’t release even the most basic of details about where the kids are, or how they might be reunited with their families.
At least two contractors involved in the logistics of placing unaccompanied children in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will not say if those or other agencies have sought out their records for family reunification or to confirm the well-being of the kids. One of them is indicating the government hasn’t asked it to do anything to reunite the children with their families. The government agencies aren’t answering, either.
Business is good for MVM. The Virginia-based intelligence contractor has a $162 million contract with ICE for transporting immigrant children to government “shelters,” and other contracts with ICE and ORR for child transport and shelter-support services.
MVM’s been in this business since 2014. But since April 6, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s infamous “Zero Tolerance” policy, MVM hasn’t only been ferrying kids who crossed the border alone. It’s also been transporting and helping the government “shelter” children whom the government forcibly separated from their parents.
After days of questioning from The Daily Beast, MVM will not say how many of those children it has transported, nor where specifically they left them, despite that data’s utility for helping anguished parents reclaim custody their children. From its perspective, its hands are tied thanks to the lucrative contracts it signed with the agencies separating those children from their families.
“MVM stands ready to assist the government in any reunification efforts,” its homeland-security director, Joseph Arabit, told The Daily Beast in a statement.
“The terms of our contract prohibit MVM from sharing sensitive information such as identification, location and statistics relating to the transportation of undocumented families and unaccompanied children. That is sensitive information that belongs to the government. ICE has asked that we refer any media inquiries for such information to them.”
The Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, which respectively oversee ICE and ORR, did not answer questions about their own record-keeping of the separated children, how it interacts with those of its contractors, and how either party is marshalling this basic data to reunite parents with their children.
On Friday, three parents separated from their kids filed a federal suit attempting to force DHS and HHS to provide “basic information about their children’s whereabouts and well-being, and frequent, meaningful opportunity to see and hear their children.” They seek addresses for where their children are being held, when the government anticipates providing them with their kids, their children’s daily itinerary in government or proxy custody, and the “name, age and gender” of the people charged with caring for their children.
The Democrats on the House oversight committee also wrote to Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary demanding “an accounting of every baby, infant, toddler and child that you stripped from his or her parents.” Their letter requests the officials brief congress by June 28 on “the specific processes you will utilize to reunite each and every one of these children with his or her parents.”
Contractors like MVM perform functions crucial for reuniting immigrant families now that President Trump signed an executive order seeming to halt the separations on Wednesday. Mega-defense contractor General Dynamics, for example, performs what it called an “administrative role to check that the case workers who work with the children are adhering to ORR guidelines.”
Families and their advocates are sounding emergency alarms warning that they may not be able to get their children back—whether in a timely manner or at all. The administration, soon after signing an executive order it touted to great fanfare, has signaled that reunification of undocumented families is not a priority.
Information in the possession of ICE and ORR’s contractors could help ease these families’ fears. But MVM and General Dynamics are greeting questions about that data with silence.