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A left-wing nonprofit working to end mass incarceration landed a $171.7 million taxpayer-funded government contract that could potentially hit $1 billion to help unaccompanied minors avoid deportation, Fox News Digital has discovered.
The Vera Institute of Justice, a New York-based group that supports defunding police and views immigration enforcement agencies as a “threat” to civil liberties, was awarded a Health and Human Services-funded contract in March to provide legal assistance to unaccompanied minors, according to a federal database.
The arrangement lasts until March 2023 but can reach as high as $983 million if renewed until March 2027, the agreement shows. This appears to be the largest federal contract Vera has secured for immigration-related services for any single year dating back to the mid-2000s.
The lofty nine-figure contract came amid an escalating border crisis that saw more than 239,000 migrant encounters in May alone — a historic high. There were 14,699 encounters of unaccompanied minors in May, an increase from the 12,180 encountered in April and slightly higher than the 14,052 encountered in May 2021.
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According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), there was an average of 692 minors in the agency’s custody during May. So far, there have been more than 100,000 unaccompanied minor encounters in fiscal year 2022, which started in October, compared to 147,925 for fiscal year 2021 and 33,239 in fiscal year 2020.
Unaccompanied minors are not being removed under the Title 42 public health order — which has been used to expel a majority of migrants coming across the southern border due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, they are typically transferred into the custody of Health and Human Services — and moved across the country to parents or sponsors already in the country.
The Biden administration has scrambled to deal with the massive surge of unaccompanied children, as well as adult migrants and family units, coming across the border. Most recently, the Biden administration signed a five-year contract to start leasing an abandoned school in Greensboro, North Carolina, to house unaccompanied minors away from the southern border.
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Potentially thousands of migrant children will be detained at the American Hebrew Academy campus in Greensboro until they can be married with either family members already living here in the US or other sponsors, Fox News learned last month.
Republicans have blamed the Biden administration for the massive surge in migration to the southern border, pointing to more liberal policies, including limiting of interior enforcement, calls for amnesty for illegal immigrants — and the rolling back of Trump-era policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and border wall construction.
The Biden administration has focused its response to the crisis on targeting “root causes” like poverty, violence, corruption and climate change in Central America.
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The Vera Institute, meanwhile, is propelled by taxpayer-backed government grants and contracts like the one it secured in March. Between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, $152 million of the group’s $191 million in revenue came from government sources, its most recent financial audit shows.
The institute seeks to end “mass incarceration” by cutting down on the number of jails, prisons and detention centers in the United States. The group has also signaled support for defunding police.
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Additionally, Vera conducts “on-the-ground work” with progressive prosecutor offices to help them “implement policies and build evidence that limiting the number of people who enter the criminal legal system and centering racial equity makes the public safer,” according to its website.
The institute also launched the “Motion for Justice” campaign, in which they work with prosecutor offices and community-based groups to “improve safety by creating diversion programs” that focus on racial equity.
The Vera Institute did not respond to a Fox News Digital inquiry.