Migrants in El Paso, Texas
Migrant asylum seekers released by CBP out on the street in El Paso Reuters

A new report has raised concerns about the use of the significant increase in federal funding to nonprofit organizations tasked with caring for unaccompanied migrant minors, discussing potential mismanagement and excessive spending.

The surge in unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border has led to a substantial boost in government contracts awarded to various NGOs operating shelters in Texas, Arizona, and California.

The most notable beneficiaries include Global Refuge, Southwest Key Programs, and Endeavors, Inc., which collectively witnessed their revenue skyrocket from $597 million in 2019 to an eye-catching $2 billion by 2022, according to the report by The Free Press.

Critics have voiced alarm over the compensation packages of the NGOs' executives, with CEOs earning over $500,000 annually. Notably, the CEO of Southwest Key Programs has a salary exceeding $1 million.

The federal funds are being used by some organizations to provide unconventional services like pet therapy and music therapy for migrant children, the report claims.

The Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, manages these funds through its Office of Refugee Resettlement, with budgets swelling from $1.8 billion in 2018 to $6.3 billion in 2023. This year, expenditures are expected to reach $7.3 billion, predominantly funneling into NGOs and other contractors .

While NGO executives argue that the increased funding mirrors the growing need for services, critics contend that federal grants have vastly outpaced actual requirements. The lack of transparency regarding shelter operations has been highlighted as a significant concern, particularly given the private ownership of many facilities .

Global Refuge exemplifies this trend, reporting a substantial revenue increase from $50 million in 2018 to $207 million in 2022, predominantly fueled by government contracts. The organization's workforce has expanded significantly, with plans to hire up to 700 employees by the end of 2024 .

Southwest Key Programs, headquartered in Austin, Texas, faced controversy due to previous misuse of federal funds and cases of employee misconduct. Despite these issues, the organization's government grant almost doubled from $391 million in 2020 to nearly $790 million by 2022, according to the report.

Endeavors, Inc., led by former DHS chief financial officer Chip Fulghum, secured a monumental $1.3 billion government contract in 2022, a record sum for an NGO operating at the border .

Proposed changes to ORR regulations aim to codify relaxed standards, drawing criticism from experts who argue that the focus should be on improving oversight rather than streamlining the release process .

Ultimately, the debate surrounding the Unaccompanied Children Program underscores broader concerns about the efficacy of federal oversight and the allocation of taxpayer dollars in addressing the challenges posed by the influx of unaccompanied minors at the U.S. border .

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