The federal HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) announced last recently that Greensboro Piedmont Academy, formerly known as the American Hebrew Academy, is not yet operational, despite their previous plans to begin housing unaccompanied minors in August. Last week’s update came amid a congressional investigation into the federal contracts to run the facility and questions from North Carolina lawmakers.

“After HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra misled me and my colleagues about housing unaccompanied minors in North Carolina, it appears that’s exactly what’s happening; and I’m continuing to demand answers,” US Congressman Richard Hudson, R-NC9, told Carolina Journal. “My colleagues and I have been fighting for updates on this facility for months, and the administration’s unwillingness to meaningfully cooperate with congressional oversight is a disservice to the people and a clear sign there is a growing culture of subversion within Biden’s administration.”

The facility was leased by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to serve as the future location of an Influx Care Facility (ICF). Some companies listed on the federal contract to run the facility operations are linked to former ICE employee Andrew Lorenzen-Strait. Lorenzen-Strait, who is under investigation by the congressional Committee on Homeland Security. 

Now the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability, chaired by US Congressman Dan Bishop, R-NC8, is investigating how companies listed on the Greensboro government project landed millions of dollars in work. The companies include Family Endeavors as well as Cherokee Nation Businesses, both of which have ties to Lorenzen-Strait who, in addition to being a former ICE employee, also served on the Biden-Harris transition team. Strait was previously employed by Endeavors before he resigned and started Verdin Point and The Tanager Group with his partners. While Endeavors is not directly involved in the Greensboro project, they did receive over $600 million in federal funding for an ICF in TX; approximately 44% of the funding for this project is from HHS. 

Cherokee Federal, named to Bloomberg’s list of top federal contractors earlier this year, is one of the brands of Cherokee Nation Businesses, another company listed on the contract for which Lorenzen-Strait brokered a huge federal contract.  In undercover video released by Project Veritas, Lorenzen-Strait claimed to have secured the contract for Cherokee Federal.

In the video, Lorenzen-Strait is recorded by an undercover reporter for Project Veritas saying, “Cherokee Nation is not this benevolent humanitarian actor. They make most of their money with alcohol and gambling…I helped them move into the migration or refugee space this year.”

“The person I represented did not have the acumen and ability to win in a competitive right. It was awarded because of patronage,” he added in the video.

Office of Refugee Resettlement lease

This all began back in June of 2022, when Guilford County and Greensboro city officials confirmed that HHS signed a lease with the American Hebrew Academy to serve as an Influx Care Facility (ICF), according to a press release.  

The Greensboro location is part of a network of almost 300 facilities across 27 states that serve as a shelter for unaccompanied minors that have no lawful immigration status, until they are placed with a vetted family member or sponsor. Minors who are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which falls under HHS. 

“For over two years, the Biden administration has failed to secure our Southern Border and has allowed millions of immigrants to enter our country illegally,” Hudson told Carolina Journal in an email. “Now every state, including North Carolina, is suffering from the impacts of Biden’s open border policies.” 

The Greensboro ICF location will provide care for minors ages 13-17 and has a capacity of up to 800 beds.

“Culture and identity focus will exist as the heart of GGA’s curriculum,” the Greensboro Global Academy “trauma-informed care” curriculum states. “Our students will connect with who they are while gaining an understanding of the society they are entering. Our students have the opportunity to explore the arts, nature, and vocation. GGA will utilize the vast property and resources available to have the students engage in choice courses. Students also have opportunities to take courses in the arts, sports, outdoor studies, cooking, etc.”

“The impact of these shelters on the local community is minimal,” according to the fact sheet put out by ORR, which falls under the Administration for Children and Families. It was originally slated to begin operating in August.

“There are currently no children in care at the site, and no current activation date,” states the fact sheet, which was updated on Nov. 3.

The investigation

In August, Bishop, chair of the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability, sent a letter from the committee leadership to ICE Director Patrick J. Lechleitner requesting documents on how Lorenzen-Strait and his then-ICE colleagues were involved in awarding the $50 million government contract.

“On January 20, 2021, Family Endeavors, Inc. (Endeavors) named Mr. Lorenzen-Strait the Senior Director for Migrant Services and Federal Affairs,” said the Aug. 10 letter.  “Immediately preceding his position with Endeavors, Mr. Lorenzen-Strait served on the Biden-Harris transition team. He is also a former official at ICE.”

The letter continued, “It is unclear whether Mr. Lorenzen-Strait even had authority to engage Endeavors in a contract with ICE or whether ICE ever evaluated any conflict of interest created by Mr. Lorenzen-Strait’s participation in the contract…In September 2022, amid intense scrutiny over Endeavors’ federal contracts, Andrew Lorenzen Strait resigned from his position.”

In 2022, Hudson and US Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, also began asking questions, spearheading a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The letter detailed their concerns with the facility as well as the conflicting messages that have come from HHS concerning this facility. The letter expresses concerns and outlines detailed questions for both HHS and DHS. The letter was also signed by former US Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, current US Sen. Ted Budd, and US House members David Rouzer, Dan Bishop, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx and Gregory Murphy, all Republicans representing North Carolina.

Chinese company ties

Additionally, the location for the facility was tied to a previously publicly traded Chinese company, Puxin Limited, “the third largest education and after school programming company” in China, according to The Floridian.

“In 2019, Puxin announced it had entered an agreement with the American Hebrew Academy to loan the Academy $26 million for operation as an international college preparatory school,” according to the letter from Sen. Tillis and Rep. Hudson. “The school did not open, and the Academy has sat unused until this lease was agreed to.”

Hudson told Carolina Journal that “Placing unaccompanied minors in different states across the nation is not the answer to address our border crisis. I will continue to hold the Biden administration accountable for their blatant disregard for the people of North Carolina and the impacts this decision will have on our state.”

The contract is for approximately five fiscal years and more than $50 million dollars of taxpayer money.

Editor’s note: A sentence was added to clarify Family Endeavors relation to the Greensboro facility.