A senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official has denounced to Congress in a letter to The Washington Post that his supervisors changed his position when he pointed out alleged deficiencies in the medical provider that treats migrants at federal facilities at the border. and failed to investigate her complaint.
Florida-based Loyal Source Government Services is now a finalist for a new five-year, $1.500 billion contract with CBP, which has been delayed, in part, by an investigation into the death of a migrant child. Meanwhile, the company continues to staff federal facilities on the border under a $25 million-a-month contract, extended until the new one closes.
Troy Hendrickson, who worked for the federal agency for 15 years, sent a letter through his lawyers in which he lays out a timeline of his concerns about the contractor, which he attributes to failures in medical care, as well as shortages and lack of training of his staff. Hendrickson says that, as early as January 2022, he tried to have the contractor warned of alleged "shocking deficiencies", after three years of allegations of wrongdoing, but was ignored.
In the letter, Hendrickson claims that he told his supervisors that Loyal Source had a 40% staffing shortfall, and also allowed employees to work without proper licenses; and irregularly billed millions of dollars in payments.
"Tragically, one year after Hendrickson was removed from her post, Anadith Reyes died on May 17, 2023, while detained at a CBP facility following her mother's repeated pleas for medical care to staff," the letter said. "If those concerns had been addressed in 2021 or 2022, Anadith might still be alive," he adds.
Hendrickson sent his 20-page letter to congressmen from both parties on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; the Senate Judiciary Committee; and the House Homeland Security Committee.
[Border Patrol says nurse denied 'three or four requests' for ambulance to girl who died in custody]
"This complaint is hopeful that the evidence will prompt a deep investigation into the mismanagement, waste of taxpayer funds, and indefensible failures in the provision and oversight of mandatory medical services to noncitizens in CBP custody," Andrea Meza, an attorney with the Government Accountability Project, told the newspaper.
According to the complaint, it wasn't until Anadith Reyes' death that the federal agency took action, determining that Loyal Source staff mishandled medical records showingthe girl had a heart condition and sickle cell anemia; failed to provide the necessary aid; and ignored the pleas of the child's mother.
Following the death, CBP reassigned its top medical officer, and issued a warning to Loyal Source, known as a medical care advisory, demanding immediate solutions to the deficiencies.
Disproportionate profit margins
Hendrickson also claims that in January 2022 he organized an emergency meeting at CBP to alert that the contractor was running full shifts at facilities where he was understaffed. When Loyal Source said it had staff retention issues, the solution was to ask CBP for more money.
Hendrickson began investigating the money the company was receiving, according to the letter, and discovered that Loyal Source was paying its employees below market price, but that "their expenses and profit margins were disproportionately high."
Two Loyal Source employees interviewed by The Washington Post confirmed low pay and a lack of bonuses for remote positions as the main cause of staffing shortages.
["When they called the ambulance, it was too late": Parents of dead girl in Patrol custody allege "negligence"]
After months of complaints and negative ratings of Loyal's performance on the government's contractor measurement system, Hendrickson was fired. Then, the letter explains, his rating was changed to "exceptional" and "very good" in the system.
Hendrickson reported to CBP's internal affairs division that he believed that had happened so that Loyal could participate in the new contract, the letter explains.
CBP attempted to contract with another provider in September 2022, but Loyal filed administrative protests alleging unfair treatment, so the process has been delayed several times.
In addition, officials quoted by the newspaper indicated that there is no medical service company large enough to immediately replace Loyal at a time when migrant arrivals are at record levels.
After receiving Hendrickson's letter, the leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat Dick Durbin, promised in a statement Thursday to investigate the allegations: "It appears that CBP failed to hold Source accountable for baseless billing, gross staffing, unlicensed medical employees, privacy violations, and failure to report allegations of sexual harassment."