Detained Immigrant Children Didn’t Have Adequate Masks During A COVID Outbreak, Whistleblowers Allege

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This is the second whistleblower complaint about conditions for unaccompanied immigrant children at the Fort Bliss shelter in less than a month.

Immigrant children housed at one of the Biden administration’s largest emergency shelters were held in overcrowded conditions without adequate masks, resulting in widespread COVID-19 infections, according to a new whistleblower complaint.

The complaint filed by two government employees is the second to come out of Fort Bliss, an army base near El Paso, Texas, which housed thousands of unaccompanied immigrant minors. Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Project filed its initial complaint about conditions at Fort Bliss that included lack of clean underwear and described contractors with no experience in working with children.

In addition to COVID concerns, the two federal employees — Arthur Pearlstein, director of arbitration and of the office of shared neutrals at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and Lauren Reinhold, an attorney-adviser at the Social Security Administration — who filed the Wednesday complaint said mismanagement resulted in significant mental health issues among the children, as well as delays in being released to family or friends. Both Pearlstein and Reinhold were represented by the Government Accountability Project.

“Gross mismanagement, waste, and abuse of authority by those at the top who insisted on utmost secrecy led to conditions for thousands of children at Fort Bliss that can only be described as constituting mistreatment,” Pearlstein said in a statement.

The children were housed by contractors for the Department of Health and Human Services, Chenega Corporation, and Rapid Deployment Inc. Neither company responded to a request for comment. HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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