(Judicial Watch Press Release, December 22, 2022)
Washington, DC – Judicial Watch announced today that it received 16 pages of records from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailing the nighttime transportation of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) by air from Texas to Tennessee, as well as two other flights making multiple stops across the country.
The Administration for Children and Families, a division of HHS, produced the records in response to an October 2022 lawsuit filed after HHS failed to respond to a May 20, 2021, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:22-cv-03044)), asking for:
- All documents related to the preparation and logistics involved in the transportation of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) to and from Chattanooga’s Wilson Air Center on May 14, 2021.
- All ACF officials’ internal email communications related to the transportation of UACs to and from Chattanooga’s Wilson Air Center on May 14, 2021.
The records include a May 15 email from a person whose name is redacted to an unnamed person at MVM Inc’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Transport DFW (Dallas Fort Worth) Command Center detailing charter flights.
One flight travelling from SAN-OKC-CHA-EWR [San Diego, Oklahoma City, Chattanooga, Newark airports] via “Swift Air,” which was operating a Boeing 737 with “148 seats” [likely the number of passengers]. It indicates that there would be two buses at the San Diego Convention Center, two buses in Oklahoma City, two buses in Chattanooga, and two buses at Newark.
A second flight, from MFE-ELP-EWR [McAllen, El Paso, Newark] also via “Swift Air,” and a 737, with 150 seats, notes: “Pecos [TX] will be bused to ELP [El Paso] to catch charter flight. 1 bus will report 0800. 2 buses to report at 0800 at Delphi EIS [Delphi Emergency Intake Site]
The records also include a May 13, 2021, email thread from a redacted person at MVM Inc. to RF1Badging@rf1.us [likely Response Force 1] and others regarding an Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) transport of minors from Kay Baily Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas on Friday, May 14, 2021, before dawn, at 3 a.m.
RF1 Badging then replies, “Please be advised that the following UCs [Unaccompanied Children] … does not match in our system.” He then proceeds to list the details of nine children.
Also in this thread is an email from an individual at Culmen International stating that one of the minors is “not cleared to travel.”
The records include a list for a charter of 36 children from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador. A handwritten note on the spreadsheet says: “Dallas to Tennessee Air Charter Flight 5/14/2021.” The record notes that the children are to be transported to these shelters: La Casa de Sidney, Lincoln Hall Boys’ Haven, Children’s Home of Kingston, Children’s Village Shelter, and Cayuga Center TFC. It indicates three of the minors are “reunifications.”
(Chattanooga’s unaccompanied migrant minor housing facility, La Casa de Sydney, was closed in 2021 after reports of runaways and sexual battery.)
An undated “Transfer of Custody” form indicates the transfer of six Guatemalan and Honduran children from “KBH” [likely Kay Baily Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas] to La Casa de Sidney.
“These shocking documents forced out by a Judicial Watch lawsuit show the Biden administration effectively trafficking unaccompanied alien children, dropping them off in city after city like items for delivery,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Biden open borders crisis is resulting in the most massive child and human trafficking operation ever.”
In a May 26, 2021, letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Tennessee Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, along with Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, detailed their concerns regarding unaccompanied minors:
We write to seek information on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) management of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in federal custody and the facilities used to house them. We are particularly concerned about recent reports regarding the use of Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a central location for resettling UACs in the United States.
There are media reports that, within the last week, at least four planes carrying UACs landed at Wilson Air Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before swiftly boarding the children onto buses and transporting them to multiple cities across the southeastern United States for apparent resettlement, with zero transparency regarding what was happening. For months, reports have detailed how thousands of children are being housed in neglectful conditions at mass shelters operated by HHS under a veil of secrecy. We are deeply troubled by the lack of transparency and accountability regarding the conditions that HHS is subjecting these children to.
In September 2021, Judicial Watch revealed HHS documents that list 33 separate incidents of alleged sexual abuse in a one-month time period tied to unaccompanied alien children shelters.