NGOs are making money hand over fist thanks to Biden's open border policies

Ever since the Biden administration placed the “open for business” sign at the southern border, it was apparent to anyone paying attention that someone had to make money off the deal. Now we are finding out who. 

According to The Free Press, a significant number of nonprofits or NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are reaping substantial financial benefits, with American taxpayers contributing to this windfall. 

The so-called “Unaccompanied Children Program” is a federally-funded program that is responsible for resettling illegal alien children who enter the country, however, much of that responsibility is delegated to NGOs that run shelters in the border states of Texas, Arizona, and California. 

In 2022, the last year for which statistics are available, a record 130,000 unaccompanied children entered the US, which has padded the coffers of those NGOs along with the salaries of their CEOs. 

“The amount of taxpayer money they are getting is obscene,” Charles Marino, former adviser to Obama’s Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, 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 three most prominent NGOs saw their combined revenue nearly quadruple from 2019 to 2022. Global Refuge, Southwest Key Programs, and Endeavors, Inc. saw their revenue grow from $597 in 2019 to $2 billion by 2022, the last year for which federal disclosure documents are available. Moreover, the CEOs of those three NGOs each earn over $500,000 annually in compensation, with the CEO of Southwest Key making over $1 million. 

The services provided by these NGOs raise questions. For instance, Endeavors employs unconventional therapies such as “pet therapy,” “horticulture therapy,” and music therapy. In 2021 alone, Christy Merrell, a music therapist, received a staggering $533,000 from Endeavors. A PowerPoint obtained by America First Legal revealed that Endeavors conducted nearly 1,700 “people-plant interactions” and 287 pet therapy sessions between April 2021 and March 2023. 

That company’s 2022 federal disclosure form shows it paid $5 million to a company to provide fill-in doctors and nurses, $4.6 million for “consulting services,’ $1.4 million to attend conferences, and $700,000 on lobbyists, The Free Press reported. Meanwhile, in 2021, the NGO paid $8 million to hotel management company Esperanto Developments to house illegal aliens in its hotels. According to federal disclosure forms, Endeavors earns 99.6 percent of its revenue from the federal government. The NGO refused to comment to The Free Press. 

The nonprofits are funded by the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through its Office of Refugee Resettlement. Its budget has snowballed from $1.8 billion in 2018 to over three times that amount, $6.3 billion, in 2023. It is estimated that the office will spend at least $7.3 billion this year, most of which will be laundered through NGOs and other government contractors. 

In January, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, CEO of Global Refuge, was asked about the funding increase during a media event. He replied, “We’ve grown because the need has grown,” a reference, indirect though it was, to Biden’s open borders policy. Global Refuge did not make Vignarajah available for an interview with The Free Press. 

Despite the explosion in illegal aliens entering the country throughout the Biden administration, some critics say the current outlay of federal grants far surpasses the current need. Private companies own most of the facilities used by NGOs and then lease them to the NGOs, which house the unaccompanied minors and attempt to reunite them with family members or, if no family is available, so-called “sponsors.” 

The Office of Refugee Resettlement will not publicly release the number of shelters it funds to house illegal aliens, however, the New York Times once described the business as “lucrative” and “secretive.” 

Admittedly, most of the NGOs have been operating at the border for a long time, however, the current flow of money is unprecedented, according to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. 

“...what is new under Biden is the amount of taxpayer money being awarded, the lack of accountability for performance, and the lack of interest in solving the problem,” Vaughan said. CIS is a think tank that researches government immigration policies and describes it as a “low immigration, pro-immigrant”-focused organization. 

In 2018, Global Refuge, based in Baltimore, had $50 million in revenue. By 2022, the company’s revenue exploded four-fold to $207 million, of which the government funded $180 million. That year, the company spent $82 million housing unaccompanied children. The organization also granted $45 million to an organization that facilitates adoptions and resettles illegal alien children. 

The company employs 550 people nationwide, and Vignarajah said in January that the nonprofit plans to add at least 150 additional staffers by the end of this year. 

Vignarajah, former policy director for then-first lady Michelle Obama, took over at Global Refuge in February 2019 after losing her race for governor of Maryland. She has since become one of the most vocal advocates of open borders and appears frequently on far-left cable channel MSNBC as an “immigration” (open borders) advocate. In three years, her salary has more than doubled from $244,000 to $520,000. 

 In 2019, the NGO housed 2,591 unaccompanied children and spent $30 million on them. Three years later, it housed nearly half the children–1,443–while spending $82.5 million. In other words, it housed nearly half the children for twice the money. 

Global Refuge spokesperson Timothy Young told The Free Press, referring to unaccompanied children, that they “attend six hours of daily education and participate in recreational activities, both at the education site and within the community.” 

Dr. Anselmo Villarreal is the CEO of Southwest Key Programs and earns a $1 million salary. That was actually a cut in pay from the previous CEO, Southwest Key founder Juan Sanchez, who raked in $3.5 million in 2018 

Despite scandals, including sexual abuse of children and misuse of federal funds, Southwest Key is still in operation and still sucking up taxpayer money. In 2020, it received $391 million in federal funds, however, by 2022, it received nearly $790 million. 

Federal disclosure forms revealed that in 2022, six executives of Southwest Key earned over $400,000, including its chief strategist ($800,000), head of operations ($700,000), and key HR executive ($535,000). The company's total payroll in 2022 totaled $465 million. 

Endeavors, Inc., a San Antonio-based NGO, is overseen by Chip Fulgham, the former chief financial officer of the Department of Homeland Security. He became Eneavors’ COO in 2019 and was promoted to CEO this year.

In 2022, he was paid almost $600,000 as COO, while then-CEO Jon Allman raked in $700,000. The NGO’s payroll went from $20 million in 2018 to $150 million in 2022, with seven of its executives earning over $300,000. 

The Free Press wrote that Endeavors’ 2022 contract with the federal government was worth $1.3 billion, the largest sum awarded to an NGO working at the border. In 2023, when the shelter was closed for six months, that amount contracted to $324 million. 

As is typical for a government program, the Unaccompanied Children Program suffers from many problems, including lack of oversight. Sources who worked at a temporary Emergency Intake Site in 2021 said the ORR forced case managers to move children out within two weeks in order to prepare for the next onslaught of unaccompanied children. 

The lack of oversight came to the forefront in 2022 when Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) empaneled a grand jury to investigate the NGOs. That investigation showed that ORR “continually loosened its safety protocols so children could be connected to sponsors more quickly,” The Free Press wrote. 

Moreover, the same report showed that with little to no documentation proving an illegal alien’s actual age at the time Border Patrol processes them, 105 adults were discovered posing as unaccompanied children in 2021. One was a 24-year-old Honduran male who claimed he was 17. He later was charged with murdering his sponsor in Jacksonville, Florida. 

“We used to have DNA testing to make sure we had these family units,” a recently retired Border Patrol officer, Chris Clem, told The Free Press. However, due to the onslaught of illegals entering the country, ORR has ceased DNA testing, according to testimony provided to Congress by the General Accountability Office. In 2021, ORR changed its rules so that public records checks for other adults living in a prospective sponsor’s home were no longer mandatory.

Not surprisingly, evidence of fraud has been uncovered in the sponsorship system. 

“Most of the sponsors have no legal presence in the U.S. I don’t know if I saw one U.S. ID,” said Tara Rodas, a government employee who temporarily worked at the California Pomona Fairplex Emergency Intake charter in 2021. “There were no criminal investigators at the site, and there was no access to see if sponsors had committed crimes in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico.” 

ORR has made a series of proposed regulation changes in the Federal Register that will codify the more relaxed standards. While the new regulations will allow background checks and verification of a sponsor’s identity, they wouldn’t require them, which has been met with sharp criticism from the Center for Immigration Studies. 

“It is mind-boggling that ORR has not seen fit to adjust the policies for (unaccompanied children) placements, except to make them more lenient,” Vaughan of 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 didn’t respond to emailed questions from The Free Press

Meanwhile, Deborah White, another federal employee who was temporarily placed at the Pamona 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.” 

This is a microcosm of the Biden administration’s failures to carry out the Executive Branch's fundamental duties–to provide for the safety and welfare of American citizens. 

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