Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reportedly awarded a $185 million deal to a defense contractor under investigation for holding migrant children overnight in vacant office buildings.
The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) reported Monday that the immigration agency gave MVM Inc. a new five-year contract worth nearly $200 million on July 20, just days after CIR released video showing detained children being carried into a vacant office building in Phoenix.
The building is not licensed under Arizona state law to hold children, according to the nonprofit news outlet. It also noted that the building is not listed among shelters operated through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
ICE had said on July 11 that its contract with MVM Inc. did "not allow for children to be in these facilities more than 24 hours" and that the contractor could only use the office for "waiting purposes." The agency also said that it would investigate the defense contractor.
Records show that the five-year, $185 million contract was awarded just nine days later for translation and interpretation services, according to CIR.
“Per the ICE contract with MVM, Inc. the company is authorized to use their office spaces as waiting areas for minors awaiting same-day transportation between U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody and U.S. Health and Human Services custody," ICE press secretary Jennifer D. Elzea said in a statement to The Hill.
"These offices are not overnight housing facilities, per the contract with ICE. The offices are outfitted to provide minors awaiting same-day transport with a more comfortable and private atmosphere than they might otherwise have at a public transportation hub."
Elzea added that the agency has reviewed issues related to the length of time minors were kept in "MVM’s care and outlined several specific adjustments with the contractor to rectify that issue going forward.”
CIR notes that ICE had previously awarded MVM contracts on two separate occasions. However, those deals were subsequently voided after protests from different contractors.
The third contract is currently under protest from a vendor that wasn't awarded the deal.
On July 16, an ICE spokeswoman told CIR that that the agency was “looking into whether anything occurred that was outside the realm of our contract.”
The comment came after MVM admitted to holding migrant children at at least one of the vacant Arizona offices.
The report on a defense contractor holding migrant children in a vacant office came as President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE's administration faced mounting scrutiny over its "zero tolerance" immigration policy at the southern border, which led to thousands of parents and children being separated at the border.
CIR has also reported that some of the children held overnight in the facility were among those separated from their parents.
MVM has disputed some of the characterizations of CIR's report, saying that the building was being used as a "temporary waiting area."
"As we told CIR/Reveal when they inquired, we sometimes use this building as a temporary waiting area because it is a safe and private place for families and children in between transport. We would never leave these families or children at an airport or other transportation hub to wait for hours," the company said in a statement in July.
A representative from MVM on Monday shared a letter with The Hill that the company sent to Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoSinema advisers resign, calling her an obstacle to progress Sinema's no Manchin, no McCain and no maverick Sinema trails potential primary challengers in progressive poll MORE (D-Ariz.) after he demanded an investigation into the contractor.
In it, MVM stated that there were isolated incidents in which children stayed overnight at its facilities this summer because of the increased number of children needing escorts.
It noted that this step violated its own policy and that it has “instituted additional controls to prevent this from recurring.”
—Updated Tuesday at 10:17 a.m.