Mayorkas sought review of $500M immigrant housing contract: report

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas pushed for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to review the awarding of a more than $500 million government contract to a nonprofit to provide for immigrant housing in 2021, according to a report from The Washington Examiner.

The Examiner reported on Friday that Mayorkas sent an email to Marsha Espinosa, DHS’ assistant secretary for public affairs, and five other DHS employees on April 14, 2021, stating that the department needed to look into where its rules were “followed scrupulously.”

This was in response to an email Espinosa sent with a news article that raised questions about whether the $530 million contract given to the nonprofit, called Endeavors, for housing immigrant children was legal.

The Examiner obtained the letters following a lawsuit filed by the American Accountability Foundation, a conservative opposition research group, for information on the subject.

The Examiner reported that the Biden administration signed two separate agreements with Endeavors to house immigrants in private facilities that were not competed for by any other groups.

Federal regulations require that a “full and open competition” exists for the government to solicit offers for and award contracts, but some exceptions are allowed.

The Examiner reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has said “unusual and compelling urgency” was why the contracts were not offered through a competitive process.

The first contract was from ICE for $87 million for Endeavors to take on and oversee migrant families in detention at hotels in Arizona and Texas for six months. The second, the $530 million contract, was from the Department of Health and Human Services for immigrant children to receive additional housing in Pecos, Texas.

A former member of President Biden’s transition team, Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, reportedly was hired by Endeavors months before the nonprofit won the government contracts. Axios reported in April 2021 that Lorenzen-Strait advised the transition team on policy for DHS and staffing, in part leading some House Republicans to request information from Mayorkas about how Endeavors secured the contracts.

A spokesperson for Endeavors told the Examiner that the nonprofit worked closely with DHS and the inspector general’s office in their review of the contract, which ended last year.

“From veterans to communities devastated by disasters to unaccompanied children, our mission is to serve all people in times of crisis,” the spokesperson said.

The Hill has reached out to DHS for comment.

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