White House wants contractors to help run Guantanamo Bay migrant facility

The Biden administration has put out a call for private contractors to bid for the right to operate a migrant detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — an apparent response to the thousands of Haitian migrants who have surged to the US-Mexico border area in recent days.

The solicitation for bids, which was posted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Friday and first reported on by NBC News, notes that the selected contractor will need to have tents and cots “assembled and ready with little notice” — as well as have 10 percent of personnel be “fluent in Spanish and Haitian Creole.”

The ad also notes that while the facility “has a capacity of 120 people and will have an estimated daily population of 20 people,” the operator must be able to build temporary housing for “up to 400 migrants in a surge event” — an admonishment that is repeated twice in the solicitation.

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base has been in use since 1903 and is best known for its military prison, which has housed notorious terrorism suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the alleged “mastermind” behind the 9/11 terror attacks — and the so-called “Taliban Five,” who were released in 2014 in exchange for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

However, the base also includes an immigrant holding facility that was used in the 1990s to house Haitian refugees who were picked up at sea as they sought to flee to the US. During the Kosovo War of 1999, the Clinton administration initially selected the base as a temporary home for 20,000 refugees before scrapping that plan days later.

Migrants, many of whom are Haitian, wait to board a bus to Houston at a humanitarian center after they were released by the US Border Patrol upon crossing the Rio Grande.
Julio Cortez/AP

The Biden administration has begun moving thousands of migrants — many of them of Haitian origin — out from a makeshift encampment under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas after as many as 15,000 had congregated there.

Initially, it was thought that the majority of those rounded up from under the bridge would be deported back to Haiti. However, the Associated Press reported early Wednesday that thousands of migrants were being released into the US to be processed at their final destinations — and are being told merely to report to an immigration office within 60 days in an apparent reprise of the “catch and release” immigration policy.

DHS has so far been unable to say how many of the migrants from under the Del Rio bridge are being deported and how many are being released in America. On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned migrants who try to enter the US illegally that “your journey will not succeed and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives.”

Emails requesting comment from two DHS officials listed as contacts on the bid solicitation were not immediately answered.

Haitian migrants begin to stir at an encampment at a sports park in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico.
Haitian migrants at an encampment in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico.
Felix Marquez/AP