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Nonprofits Are Making Billions off the Border Crisis


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The Free Press

Federal funding has turned the business of resettling migrant children into a goldmine for a handful of NGOs—and their top executives.

Madeleine Rowley

May 12, 2024

While the border crisis has become a major liability for President Biden, threatening his reelection chances, it’s become a huge boon to a group of nonprofits getting rich off government contracts.

Although the federally funded Unaccompanied Children Program is responsible for resettling unaccompanied migrant minors who enter the U.S., it delegates much of the task to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that run shelters in the border states of Texas, Arizona, and California.

And with the recent massive influx of unaccompanied children—a record 130,000 in 2022, the last year for which there are official stats—the coffers of these NGOs are swelling, along with the salaries of their CEOs.

“The amount of taxpayer money they are getting is obscene,” Charles Marino, former adviser to Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under Obama, said of the NGOs. “We’re going to find that the waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money will rival what we saw with the Covid federal money.”

The Free Press examined three of the most prominent NGOs that have benefited: Global Refuge, Southwest Key Programs, and Endeavors, Inc. These organizations have seen their combined revenue grow from $597 million in 2019 to an astonishing $2 billion by 2022, the last year for which federal disclosure documents are available. And the CEOs of all three nonprofits reap more than $500,000 each in annual compensation, with one of them—the chief executive of Southwest Key—making more than $1 million.


“It is mind-boggling that ORR has not seen fit to adjust the policies for (unaccompanied children) placements, except to make them more lenient,” Jessica Vaughan at the Center for Immigration Studies told The Free Press. “They could do a much better job, but they only want to streamline the process and make the releases even easier.” The Administration for Children and Families did not respond to emailed questions from The Free Press.

Deborah White, another federal employee temporarily detailed to the Pomona Fairplex facility in 2021, told The Free Press: “Ultimately, the responsibility is on the government. But the oversight is obviously not adequate—from the contracting to the care of the children to the vetting of the sponsors. All of it is inadequate. The government blames the contractor and the contractor blames the government, and no one is held accountable.”


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