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Catholic-run Pennsylvania migrant facility criticized for ‘deplorable’ conditions

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“We had to sue the Biden administration to get them to release these documents,” American Accountability Foundation President Thomas Jones told “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol. “When the documents came out, we [understood] why we had to sue them.” / Credit: “EWTN News Nightly”/Screenshot

CNA Staff, May 22, 2024 / 10:53 am (CNA).

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests reveal what a federal government official described as “deplorable” conditions that were found in 2021 at a Catholic-run facility for migrant children in Pennsylvania. 

The emails were obtained via FOIA by the American Accountability Foundation (AAF) and published by CatholicVote last week. They show a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official relaying an April 2021 report from a worker out of Pennsylvania on the Journey of Hope facility in Pittsburgh. 

That facility is run by the Holy Family Institute, a nonprofit group that describes itself as “rooted in the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching and the heritage of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.” It works via contract with the U.S. government to house unaccompanied migrant children.

In the email, dated April 10, 2021, the Pennsylvania worker described the facility as “deplorable.”

“They haven’t cleaned a thing in the time it’s been set up,” the worker reported. “There is [expletive] smeared on the floors. We have begged their admins to have a cleaning service come in but they refuse. Say the 5-year-olds can clean themselves.” 

“Everyone on my floor has lice,” the report continued. ”They treated them then [put] them back in the same dirty sheets.”

“I thought one of the girls was pregnant,” the worker said. “The clinic refused to see her. Kids have 100 fever and aren’t seen by anyone. It’s bad.”

On Tuesday, Thomas Jones, the president of AAF, spoke with “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol about the exposé. He described the findings as “appalling and shocking.”

Jones told Sabol that AAF has had a “longtime focus” on investigating migrant facilities in the U.S. He said it was “pretty complicated” to obtain the emails that revealed the conditions at the Pittsburgh facility.

“Unfortunately, we had to sue the Biden administration to get them to release these documents,” he said. “And I think when the documents came out, we [understood] why we had to sue them.”

“The conditions just weren’t just unclean,” Jones noted. “The whistleblower was recording things like there was fecal matter smeared across the wall, children had lice, toilets were overflowing. And what happened was kind of the bureaucratic finger-pointing instead of somebody doing the simple, humane thing to pick up a mop and clean this mess up.”

Jones said the group has not yet corroborated the claims from the government employee, but they decided that the report “needs to be on the street right away.” He added that it is “really incumbent upon the Department of Health and Human Services to do a full-scale audit with the assistance of the Department of Justice to make sure all of these facilities are up to standards, that this isn’t happening anywhere else.”

Reached via email on Tuesday, the Holy Family Institute did not comment on the allegations of the conditions at the facility. “Please direct your questions to the Federal Office of the Administration for Children and Families,” the institute said. That federal office did not respond to a similar query.


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