Press Release



Biden Admin Must Respond to Fort Bliss Whistleblowers, says #WelcomeWithDignity

Washington – Today, the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign responded to the second set of disclosures by career civil servants at Fort Bliss who described the horrific conditions unaccompanied children are subjected to while in government custody. In light of this new set of allegations, four whistleblowers have come forward to say children in government custody at Fort Bliss are in the care of a federal contractor with no childcare experience, and subject to horrific conditions. #WelcomeWithDignity campaign members called on the Biden administration and Congress to immediately close the Emergency Intake Shelter at Fort Bliss and ensure that children are never held in these types of inappropriate conditions again.


“Four federal career civil servants have now come forward to share their firsthand accounts of what they experienced at Fort Bliss. Today’s disclosures from whistleblowers Mr. Pearlstein and Ms. Reinhold further corroborate prior findings of failures in case management, organizational chaos and substandard conditions for immigrant children held at Fort Bliss,” said Dana Gold, Senior Counsel at the Government Accountability Project. “We hope that the HHS OIG will continue their investigation into these disclosures with urgency, and that the Department will conduct meaningful agency-wide reform. The mental and physical welfare of these immigrant children depend upon it.” 


“We are heartbroken to read this second Whistleblower account of the outrageous and dehumanizing conditions asylum seeking children have been subjected to at Fort Bliss under the Biden administration,” said Margaret Seiler for Witness at the Border. “These eyewitness reports by federal employees detail the chaos, neglect and abuse inflicted on these vulnerable children by the thoughtless hiring of three different contractors with NO child care training. According to the report, ‘it was not clear which contractor (Chenega or Servpro) was less suited to the work — it appears neither had experience with it, nor did they perform competently or appropriately.’ The lead contractor, Rapid Deployment Inc., is scheduled to receive a total of around $1 billion for their incompetent management of the Fort Bliss EIS. Large, institutional settings are NEVER good for children. Unlicensed, emergency intake sites such as the one at Fort Bliss should be closed immediately and never reopened. Reform is desperately needed now so that resources can go to quickly reunifying unaccompanied children with their families and sponsors or, if necessary, placing them in small, family-like shelters for short stays before reunification. There are still over 2,000 children detained at Fort Bliss today. We continue to say: Fort Bliss is No Place for Children.”


“The continuing revelations of horrid conditions for unaccompanied children at Fort Bliss this spring demands an urgent response from the government to ensure this situation is never repeated,” said Denise Bell, Researcher for Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International USA. “The government is responsible for upholding the best interests of children, and it clearly failed here. The administration needs to close Fort Bliss and other emergency intake sites. It should also immediately implement reforms so that the system of care and reception for children prioritizes their well-being from day one. We’ve long called for systemic reforms that ensure family unity when children arrive at the border seeking safety, that children are placed in small-care settings during the vetting process for a safe release to family and sponsors, and that children are released much more quickly to families waiting to welcome them. We’re past excuses. These reforms are long overdue.”


“All unaccompanied children deserve to be safe, housed, and cared for,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Church World Service. “We are deeply concerned about the conditions raised in this report and urge the administration to ensure the wellbeing and best interests of all children in their care. Jesus said ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ We are facing a profound moment where we must reaffirm child protection standards and must not tolerate abuse. We further call on the administration to immediately end ‘Title 42’ expulsions for all individuals and fully restore asylum protections. We remain committed to the moral imperative to serve unaccompanied children, asylum seekers, and immigrants and to respect the dignity of all people.”


“Subjecting the children detained at Fort Bliss to the kind of horrific neglect, appalling living conditions, and sexual harassment detailed in this whistleblower report is absolutely unacceptable,” said Donna Norton, Executive Vice President at MomsRising. “America’s moms know that families belong together and that every child deserves to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect. These human rights violations must not be allowed to continue for one more day. Policymakers need to fix the problems at Fort Bliss right now, expedite the safe release of these children to families in the U.S., or move the children to a place where they will be safe and cared for properly.”


“We remain gravely concerned by ongoing reports that there are Indigenous children that are completely unaccounted for,” said Juanita Cabrera Lopez (Maya Mam Nation), Executive Director of the International Mayan League. “How can any child adequately communicate their needs if they cannot speak, either because they are so young, or because they cannot communicate in Spanish or English? All children have the right to safety and dignity.  Language rights are a human right. Abuse, neglect, and trauma are further compounded by a child’s inability to ask for help. The Administration must stop violation of children’s rights, and must abide by Executive Order 13166 and provide Indigenous language interpreters. We demand due process, justice, and accountability from the Biden Administration.”


“Our past and present are all interconnected by our forced displacement as Indigenous people from the Americas. Many of our Indigenous Maya people had to abandon their ancestral homelands in order to escape the violence we are subjected to under settler colonialism” said Dr. Jessica Hernandez (Maya Ch’orti/Binnizá-Zapotec) Climate Justice Policy Strategist from the International Mayan League. “Families are subjected to separation at the border and thus, many children are left to defend themselves. The ongoing mistreatment of our Indigenous children is a result of 500 years of colonization. Most of these children are from our Indigenous Maya Nations and thus, this is an Indigenous rights issue. The violence they are subjected to reflects how our Indigenous children have been treated by settler governments for years and it needs to stop.”


“These accounts are horrifying and entirely unacceptable,” said Leah Chavla, senior policy advisor at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC). “WRC renews its call to HHS and the Biden administration to immediately close the Ft. Bliss EIS and, in short order, all other remaining EIS. There is no question that this is possible, as other EIS have been appropriately closed. The Biden administration must ensure that children are never held in these types of inappropriate conditions again, and must fully cooperate with any investigation into the matter to make sure that there is transparency, accountability, and that needed reforms are identified, developed, and implemented. It’s inexcusable, and this administration can — and must — do better.” 




Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity here.  


The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign is composed of more than 85 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: