Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the US that now reaps $1 billion annually—a tenfold increase over the past decade, per the AP. Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care, and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million dollars in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody. Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states—Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
In May, the agency issued requests for bids for five projects that could total more than $500 million for beds, foster and therapeutic care, and "secure care," which means employing guards. More contracts are expected to come up for bids in October. HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said the agency will award bids "based on the number of beds needed to provide appropriate care for minors in the program." The recipients of the money run the gamut from nonprofits, religious organizations and for-profit entities. The organizations originally concentrated on housing and detaining at-risk youth, but shifted their focus to immigrants when tens of thousands of Central American children started arriving at the US-Mexico border in recent years. They are essentially government contractors for the Health and Human Services Department.
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