HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) — In 2018, when the Army needed a vendor to build a tent structure in deep South Texas near the Donna Rio Bravo International Bridge, the federal government turned to Rental World LLC, a locally-owned small business. But in January, when the federal government was looking for a vendor to build a soft-sided structure near the same port to help with an overflow of undocumented migrants, the contract went to a New York company and no other companies were considered.
That has the Wolfs, as well as some local lawmakers, miffed as to why Texas businesses weren’t considered for the contract, which was awarded by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as a one-bid fast-tracked job.
Additionally, many local leaders are questioning why a White House delegation visited South Texas this past weekend, but didn’t invite any local officials on a tour of the Donna tent facility.
The $36 million contract was awarded in mid-January to Deployed Resources, out of Rome, New York, according to documents obtained by Border Report. Deployed Resources is a company owned by a disabled veteran who has received millions of dollars worth of CBP contracts over the past few years, a search of the federal government’s contract database shows.
“I’m just a little discouraged that no company out of Texas got an opportunity to bid on the contract,” said Angela Wolf, standing in her family’s 40,000-square-foot warehouse Monday in Harlingen, Texas. “And a company out of New York actually got the contract so all those revenue dollars could have come to Texas.”
Angela’s husband, Bryan, said they aren’t trying to say they would have gotten the bid, they just wanted the chance, or at least for a Texas company to have gotten it.
“Just think of the multiplier effect in Texas,” he said. “You put it out to bid and you don’t get it, then fine, but there’s multiple companies (that could) throughout Texas.”
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, whose district includes Donna, told Border Report on Monday that he also questioned why it was a fast-bid.
“I think she’s right. I just wish I had a better handle on the process to say more. I think she’s right on the money and we have to dig deeper to figure out what was behind that contracting process,” Vela said.
We have to dig deeper to figure out what was behind that contracting process.”U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and a contingency of 13 White House officials visited the Donna facility on Saturday, Border Report learned.
White House officials acknowledged that Mayorkas, as well as White House Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice, went to the Southwest border on a fact-finding mission, but they have not said where.
The Donna facility is being built a few miles from the Donna International Bridge and is designed to hold an overflow of migrants. So many migrants are coming to the border in South Texas that at least one local congressman on Monday came out and called it a “crisis.”
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar told Border Report that after the delegation visited the Donna facility they flew to Laredo, his hometown, and then drove 80 miles north to Carrizo Springs and visited a detention facility where Health and Human Services is keeping undocumented migrant teens ages 13-17.
On Monday afternoon, Cuellar called the situation in South Texas “a crisis” as it was learned that CBP is now sending some undocumented migrants from the Rio Grande Valley to Laredo and other border communities, such as El Paso, due to an overcrowding at local facilities.
“The recent surge of migrant apprehensions by U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley has overwhelmed U.S Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) processing capacity, requiring the transport of migrants to Laredo and other border cities in Texas for processing. This is a crisis for our local communities. Non-profits and local governments, who are already struggling from the pandemic, are scrounging for COVID-19 tests, food, and housing for these migrants. It is critical that we provide them with emergency resources so they can properly support these migrant children and families,” Cuellar said.
Last week, it also was learned that over 100 migrants released by CBP in Brownsville, Texas, had tested positive for coronavirus since late January. That led the CEO of Greyhound to send a letter to Mayorkas urging that federal officials test migrants for COVID-19 prior to their release.
Local leaders told Border Report that no local lawmakers were invited on the tour with the delegation, and they would have liked to have been included. Border Report has also learned that city officials in Donna were not even notified.
It is unclear how many migrants the tent facility can hold, especially during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and whether the facility is fully operational. Border Report has reached out to officials with the Department of Homeland Security on the contract process as well as the tent facility and will update this story if information is received.