Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has initiated an investigation into hundreds of millions of taxpayer-backed contracts that the Biden administration has awarded to the Vera Institute of Justice, a left-wing New York-based nonprofit, which aims to help illegal immigrants avoid deportation.
According to Fox News, Grassley is seeking answers from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra regarding the federal contracts with Vera. Grassley alleges that the nonprofit has a history of not fully complying with legal and regulatory requirements regarding the expenditure of government funds, citing a Department of Justice inspector general report that found Vera did not comply with previous “essential award conditions”.
Grassley raised concerns regarding oversight structures to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse. He also stated that a robust oversight structure needs to be in place to protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse, particularly when Vera could receive almost a billion dollars of taxpayer funds under one contract alone.
Since President Biden took office, the Vera Institute of Justice and the Acacia Center for Justice, a nonprofit linked to Vera and another left-wing immigration group, have combined to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-backed government contracts.
The majority of the money is being used to keep illegal immigrants in the United States. Vera has received approximately $350 million from government contracts for immigration services in the past two years. The Acacia Center for Justice has also received tens of millions of dollars in recent federal contracts.
Grassley has asked Becerra about the HHS oversight procedures, policies, and guidelines that are in place to ensure Vera is in full compliance with all applicable legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements. Vera has received a $171 million HHS-funded contract to help unaccompanied minors avoid deportation.
The contract has since paid out around $180 million with supplemental agreements as of December. The contract lasts until March but could be renewed until March 2027, potentially becoming the most significant federal contract the group has received for immigration-related services if extended.
The group has also secured other large government contracts since early 2021, including a $168 million contract in March 2021.
The Acacia Center for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit started from a partnership between Vera and Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights, has also received several “legal services” contracts from the Department of Justice last September, netting around $41 million in payments.
The contracts do not specify an age group for the legal services. Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights directs an adult defense program that provides information, support, and legal representation to illegal immigrants.
It also has a detained unaccompanied children’s program that works with minors at the Office of Refugee Resettlement juvenile immigration detention centers in Maryland and Virginia.