Since 2010, nearly two dozen North Carolina corporations have together earned more than $36 million doing business with Customs and Border Protection, an agency facing harsh criticism for its overcrowded and inhumane detention camps along the southern border, according to a report last month on the investigative money-in-politics website Sludge.
Among them are the Cary-based Horizon Performance, a consulting company that received nearly $179,000 in 2019; Signalscape, which provides security and intelligence services and products, and has a contract with CBP that could pay as much as $785,000 between 2016 and 2020; and SAS Institute, which received nearly $40,000 for services it provided to the CPB.
Outside of the Triangle, the New Horizons Group Home in Raeford was awarded nearly $4 million to “detain and transport unaccompanied alien children” who crossed the border or “were separated from adults,” Sludge reported.
In 2018, the Battleboro-based consulting firm TMC-TeleSolv was awarded a contract that could pay up to $40 million over a two-year period. KDH Defense Systems Inc., in Eden, a manufacturer of body armor, was awarded nearly $23 million. Southern Police Canines Inc. in Nashville, which specializes in K9 training, banked $80,000 from the agency.
Sludge reporter Alex Kotch, a Durham native who previously worked at the Institute for Southern Studies, relied on a database made public by the Federal Procurement Data System, a subsidiary of the General Services Administration.
These payments were part of the $6.4 billions CBP has paid to 1,123 vendors across the country for a variety of services, everything from vehicles to food to housekeeping.
These payments have risen sharply under the Trump administration, Kotch reported, with the biggest recipients being defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and PAE Aviation and Technical Services, along with the information technology company Leidos, G4S Solutions, and the consulting firms Deloitte and McKinsey & Company.
These government contracts have come under scrutiny as media reports and immigrant rights advocates have called attention to conditions inside the camps, where asylum seekers have been detained in overcrowded, unhygienic facilities. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence, along with Senator Thom Tillis and other Republicans, toured one detention camp in Texas where men held in chain-link cages said they were denied access to showers and CPB agents wore masks to shield themselves from the stench.
Pence said afterward that “the system was overwhelmed,” but this was not the administration’s fault. Other Republicans have argued that CPB does not have enough resources. For his part, Trump tweeted last week that “if illegal immigrants are unhappy in the quickly built or refitted detention centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!”
The dilemma at the detention camps was amplified earlier this month when a memo from the Department of Homeland Security’s acting inspector general outlined the need to “address dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley.”
On July 12, advocates in cities across the country gathered as part of a liberty vigil to protest the conditions faced by migrants in these camps. Lights for Liberty, a grassroots coalition of immigration rights organizations, sponsored a vigil in Carrboro.
Toby Gialluca, a Triangle lawyer and member of Lights for Liberty, says she’s been inside the camps. The conditions are “beyond description.”
“Twenty-four adults and six children have died as a result,” Gialliuca says. “The world must take a stand against this administration and stop these camps before more lives are lost.”
In response to the INDY’s questions, SAS officials said in an email that the company “is not, nor has it ever been, involved in immigration detention centers.”
Records show that SAS’s involvement with CBP dates back to the George W. Bush administration and continued through last year, during which time it was awarded about $4.3 million in contracts from the agency’s Office of Information Technology, according to receipts published on the government website USASpending.gov. These receipts primarily show work for software and licenses.
The other local companies, as well as New Horizons Group Home, could not be reached for comment by press time.
Contact staff writer Thomas McDonald at email@example.com. Correction: Due to an editing error, this original version of this story incorrectly used a male pronoun in reference to Toby Gialluca.
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