Migrant Children Languished in Filthy Conditions Under Eye of Untrained Contractors, Whistleblowers Say

Two federal whistleblowers say they witnessed conditions that "caused physical, mental, and emotional harm affecting dozens of children" at the largest of the government's shelters for migrant youths.


Children inside the Biden administration's largest shelter for unaccompanied migrant youth were subjected to filthy living conditions and medical neglect under the watch of unqualified government contractors, two federal whistleblowers said in a complaint filed Wednesday.

Laurie Elkin and Justin Mulaire, two federal employees who were detailed to the Fort Bliss emergency intake shelter near El Paso, Texas, filed a whistleblower complaint to Congress alleging they witnessed intolerable noise, filth, and odors inside the large tents where children are housed; contractors who were unqualified to work with youths; and hostility, indifference, and resistance to providing medical treatment to sick kids.

The Government Accountability Project, which is representing the two whistleblowers, said that "the conditions they witnessed caused physical, mental and emotional harm affecting dozens of children."

Elkin and Mulaire say they were repeatedly ignored or discouraged by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) superiors when they tried to report the substandard conditions and care children were living under.

The allegations track closely with reporting from Reason and other outlets from earlier this year describing unsanitary conditions and poor care for children housed in the shelter.

The shelter, inside the Fort Bliss Army base, is the largest in a network of emergency shelters the Biden administration set up earlier this year to move unaccompanied migrant children out of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention centers. In theory, these shelters are a way station for kids who are waiting to be reunited with relatives or other connections in the United States. In fact, staffing problems and other issues left many kids stuck in limbo for up to a month or more.

The Fort Bliss shelter is staffed by a mix of contractors and federal employees detailed to HHS. At its peak, the shelter held roughly 4,500 young children and teenagers, mostly boys, in huge tents. As of late June, that number had dwindled to fewer than 800, NBC News reported.

In the complaint, Elkin recounts three instances where she discovered girls in distress, only to encounter resistance from contractors when she tried to get them medical care.

In one instance, Elkin says she came across a girl in a bottom bunk who was "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," the report says. "Ms. Elkin approached a contractor to request that the girl be taken to the medical tent. The contractor responded by saying she was not allowed to take girls to the doctor. Ms. Elkin then brought the case to contractor's supervisor who questioned why and if the girl needed to see a doctor."

The girls all eventually received care, but only at the insistence of Elkin, she alleges.

The contractor, Servpro Industries, mainly handles disaster recovery. The complaint says the contractors had little to no Spanish skills or experience in child welfare.

"Many contract workers seemed to view their job more as crowd control than youth care," the complaint says. "While some individuals plainly meant well, other contract workers exhibited impatience with children and were plainly unsure of how to supervise them."

Elkin and Mulaire also say contractors used loudspeakers to play music at intolerable volumes throughout the day, starting in the morning. 

"In one notable case, in an apparent effort to wake the children up in the morning, contract staff routinely started playing painfully loud music at around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m.," the complaint says. 

One contractor allegedly used a bullhorn to wake children up in the morning.

The conditions inside the tents were filthy, the duo says.

"Although many children were housed in these tents for as long as two months (or more), it appeared their bedding was never washed; many beds were visibly dirty," the whistleblower complaint alleges. "The children also reported having insufficient clean underwear and socks, which in turn made them reluctant to exercise," the whistleblowers say.

The complaint echoes many of the poor conditions that Reason reported in May. Federal employees detailed to the Fort Bliss shelter described chaos, underwear shortages, and medical neglect. In an audio recording of a training session for Fort Bliss detailees obtained by Reason, a trainer alluded to the poor conditions inside the tents, which at the time housed up to 1,000 people, each in stacked bunk-style cots. 

"I've been into one dorm, one time, and I was like, yeah, I'm not going back there," the trainer says. "They're filthy. They're dirty. There's food on the floor. There's wet spots all over the place. The beds are dirty. I don't know what's going on or who's responsible for ensuring that the dorms need to be clean, but we all need to be responsible for telling the minors to clean up after themselves."

The trainer also said there had been inappropriate contact between staff and minors, as well as between minors.

Legal action followed the reports. In June, testimonials from migrant children describing deplorable conditions inside the shelter system were filed in an ongoing federal lawsuit. 

Reason reported:

Detained minors in their testimonials for the case described limited time outside, sporadic showers, and being served inadequate or unsafe food, including raw chicken and foul-smelling hamburgers. A 13-year-old Honduran recounted being "locked up all day" during five days in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody. A 14-year-old Guatemalan girl said that detainees at a facility in Houston had to drink expired milk when they ran out of water. "I was never allowed to make a phone call while I was there," said a 17-year-old Honduran who was in CBP custody for 11 days. Minors reported receiving few details about how long they would be in custody and many were transferred to other facilities with little notice or explanation.

Those conditions have left detained minors despondent. "I used to be able to cope with my anxiety and breathe through it, but now I feel like I've given up," said a 17-year-old from Guatemala. "I feel like I'll never get out of here." One child was placed on suicide watch and another described how difficult it was to get an appointment with a counselor, though many girls in detention "have thoughts of cutting themselves." Teens have resorted to cutting themselves with their identification cards since employees at one facility banned pencils, pens, toothbrushes, and even the metal nose clips of N95 face masks over concerns of self-harm, according to testimony and worker accounts.

The total number of migrant minors being held by the U.S. government has waned, from more than 20,000 to roughly 14,500, according to the latest numbers from HHS.

HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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  1. Welcome to open borders, democrat style.

    1. Kids in cages.

      1. They've been upgraded to cargo containers.

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    2. They are NOT migrant youths they are ILLEGAL ALIENS. Want them released ? send the ILLEGAL ALIENS back to where they came from.

  2. who cares its all ok since Biden is president, though somedays he thinks he is senator then others he just doesn't know at all.

    1. Some days he thinks he's a senator, but he usually thinks it's the Roman senate.

      1. TO-GA!

    2. This is the way it works: each party can get away with ignoring the evils of the other that it's supposed to overcome.

      Hence, Democrats make a big deal out of "kids in cages", so they don't have to do anything about it.

      Just like Republicans make a big deal out of government spending, so they don't have to do anything about it.

  3. Migrant Children Languished in Filthy Conditions Under Eye of Untrained Contractors

    If you don't get your act together, we'll just cancel your contracts and send those children back where they belong!

  4. Their parents must be some cruel sonsabitches to force their kids to cross the border into the United States knowing that these are the conditions awaiting them.

    Isn't it funny how Reason defends the age of the robber barons and child factory and mine labor by saying that they self-evidently must have liked losing their fingers in industrial machines and getting lung cancer by age 35 or else they would have stayed on their farms; and argue in favor of having migrant Mexican farm laborers living 100 people to a bunkhouse in 100 degree heat making 1/3 of minimum wage; but go into apoplectic fits when the same illegal migrants who they'd happily turn into subsistence-wage child laborers at the soonest possible opportunity have to live with dirty floors and insufficient ESL teachers in their climate-controlled federal vacation facilities?

    1. Cite please. Or are you just pulling “libertarian” stereotypes from your head?

    2. Reason dot com is very concerned that our system for importing indentured servants, I mean our immigration system, is not working as efficiently as it could.

      Go piss up a rope you billionaire bastards

      1. Also the whole reason they're coming is the First World plunders and exploits the Third World to maintain their unsustainably high standards of living, and when those people in the third world try to escape their plundering & exploitation by leaving we pull up the drawbridge and leave them to twist in the wind or force their children into sweltering, shit-filled tents.

        1. And what's wrong with that.

    3. If they just came here to work and were entirely supported by their employer sponsors there would be no problem. But they are supported by taxpayers as soon as they get here which is unacceptable. This isn’t about being a bleeding heart and worrying about their welfare. I say open them up to private sponsors and if no one will take them deport them forthwith to their countries of origin.

  5. "Children inside the Biden administration's..."

    You think this is going to make the news? At this point what purpose would it serve?

    1. We had to cage the children to save the children.

    2. What difference at this point does it make?

    3. Heck with all the funding from the dem controlled congress there must be some open spaces in
      Georgetown, Delaware and up north in Connecticut where shelters could be easily built to house all of the migrant youth (aka ILLEGAL ALIENS). Note that the places where they are housed are far removed from the view of our solons.

  6. unfortunate but necessary. open borders simply isn't feasible and never will be, unless you want to make the absurd claim that no culture is different from any other.

    1. They won't be different once we have equity. One giant happy, homogenous world. With no borders.

      1. If it is a giant happy world that is homogeneous to the extent that it strongly defends individual liberty, that seems like something to celebrate instead.

        1. lol you wish

        2. Lmao, phantasyjeff, YES, oh my god, that's EXACTLY what everybody is trying to do. And that's why we are NOT yet there. Because everyone wants this. Badly. Like really. Everyone. Especially Jo Jorgensen.

          1. Ha such an idiot.

            1. Just click Mute User and he's gone.

        3. So Biden’s Latin child cages are just part of the transition?

          1. Well, that and a smorgasbord for the pedophiles in office.

      2. Just see Germany for example, how happy the young women of Germany are to interact with the immigrant population of young men

  7. So is this still a "concentration camp" or have we stopped using that language for some reason?

    1. That exited the lexicon on January 6.

    2. Don't be too quick to buy into the hype here, I'd wait to comment on this news item until I hear it from a reliable source such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, or directly from the DNC themselves.

    3. I don't recall anyone going to great trouble and expense to get INTO concentration camps.

  8. Wait a minute! No one thinks those such as AOC actually cared about those children do they? "Kids in cages" was simply a cudgel used to beat President Trump.

    Now, they are simply future democrat voters. They will be moved from crowded cages to crowded Section 8 housing, but they will vote blue whether they intend to or not.

    1. The girls will have to start having babies so they can get Section 8 housing and move their boyfriends in with them.

  9. The contractor, Servpro Industries, mainly handles disaster recovery. The complaint says the contractors had little to no Spanish skills or experience in child welfare.

    Fortunately, as a private company, Servpro can't be held to the same standards of care as the federal government would be held.

    1. Oh for cryin out loud. So they can’t speak Spanish? Do they have phones? Just download the app and it will do it for you.

      1. Just talk louder and slower.

  10. This administration is so FUCKING DELICIOUS.

  11. Why can’t they let community organizations, church groups, charities, take them. They could board them out like foster children and have checks to make sure they are OK. I’ve got room for four.

    Honestly this is shameful.

    1. why would you? you're just encouraging this sort of illegal behavior if you reward it, you know.

      1. The question is why wouldn’t you?

        These are children. It is not their fault.

        1. Very few are children. It's mostly older adolescents, and young adults claiming to be minors.

    2. My honest guess is that there are legal procedures in place that don't permit aliens coming across the border to be released to private citizens. Your compassion is probably not suitable for temporary detention while they vet the person that's come across the border. You're unable to ensure they don't disappear into the community, or that you're not working with mules or other human trafficking organizations. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

      1. But the good intentions. Just think of the good intentions.

      2. Not to mention that taking many of these "children" into your home would be dangerous.

      3. Obviously you would need to vet the organization running the program and people participating. I have been vetted more times than I can count by government organizations. You would also need to have someone from INS or whatever to oversee the program. There would be no government pay. All funded by donations.

        Say my local synagogue runs the program. They can do this. There are two of them here and they are,,, very well funded with awesome facilities for children. They have schools, summer camps, playgrounds, the grandkids love it.

        Then people from the community volunteer to board the kids while they are awaiting the legal process. The INS can call, talk with the children, visit any time.

        Without going into personal details they would be in kiddo heaven here. I am sure there are many Americans who could make their lives better as they await the legal process.

        Yeah I know the law does not allow it. It will never happen. The law is cruel and intentionally so.

        1. Our overpaid government overseers can board them for the duration of the congressional debate on the .. They Migrant children (aka ILLEGAL ALIENS) should be kept in the view of the wonderful humanitarians in congress. They're all millionaires so the cost would be negligeble.

    3. Sin polluelos gordos.

  12. Activists defending the rights of migrants hold a protest near Fort Bliss to call for the end of the detention of unaccompanied minors at the facility in El Paso, Texas, U.S, June 8, 2021. (JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ/REUTERS/Newscom)

    What would the "end of detention" look like?

    1. San Fransisco?

      1. No, No, No. Georgetown...

    2. What would the “end of detention” look like?
      Sending them back to their country of origin, and charging said country for room, board, health care and the cost of sending them back.

    3. It should look like deportation back to their country of origin. But that's not what the activists are talking about. They want unaccompanied minors released to "relatives" in the US who happen to own chicken farms that need docile, helpless slave labor.

  13. Strangely enough, nothing about these whistleblowers in the Washington Post.

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