Feds Look to Expand Guantánamo Bay Facilities

Feds Look to Expand Guantánamo Bay Facilities

The Department of Homeland Security recently asked for bids in a project to renovate a migrant detention center in the Gitmo Naval Base.


DHS expects the 120-person facility to have “an estimated daily population of 20 people.” However, during “surge” periods, up to 400 detainees may be housed there. Generally, Haitian migrants intercepted en route to the United States are housed in Guantánamo Bay. The Biden Administration fervently denied that any Haitian migrants currently huddled on the U.S. southern border would be sent to Guantánamo Bay. After she said the bid solicitation was “routine,” White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki speculated “I think there was some confusion related to the Migrant Operations Center, which has been used for decades to process migrants interdicted at sea for third-country resettlement.” Furthermore, in a separate statement, DHS said it “is not [sending] and will not send Haitian nationals being encountered at the southwest border to the Migrant Operations Center (MOC) in Guantánamo Bay.”


However, the DHS request for proposal includes a requirement that “At least 10% of the augmented personnel must be fluent in Spanish and Haitian Creole.”


Americans in Guantánamo Bay


This facility was a thorn in the side of nations on both sides of the Atlantic long before the Global War on Terror thrust it into the headlines.


Many Spanish are still upset over the 1898 Spanish-American War. Exaggerated stories of Spanish atrocities against Cuban islanders and bomb plots against U.S. assets prompted America to declare war on the decaying Spanish Empire. That certainly was not the first time, nor the last time, that a nation used a shaky pretext to attack another nation. As part of the “settlement” which ended the brief war, which only lasted about three months, Madrid ceded most of its remaining overseas territories, including Cuba and the Philippines, to Washington.


However, the U.S. ostensibly went to war over Cuban independence. So, rather than annex the territory outright, the Americans made it a “protectorate.” The controversial Platt Amendment, a 1903 treaty between the nascent Cuban government and the Americans, gave the U.S. the right to intervene militarily on the island and build four naval bases on it. Only one facility, Guantánamo Bay in southeast Cuba, was built.


In 1934, as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor” policy toward Latin America, the U.S. repealed the Platt Amendment. But the Guantánamo Bay base remained, much to the chagrin of the Cubans and, during the Cold War, their Soviet allies. Despite the international intrigue, Guantánamo Bay was a fairly quiet outpost for many years. Then, 9/11 changed everything.


By 2003, over seven hundred suspects in the Global War on Terror were detained here and denied basic rights. Calls for the prison’s reform or closure intensified. In 2009, in the waning hours of the George W. Bush presidency, special appointee Susan J. Crawford admitted that suspects were tortured there.


President Barack Obama almost immediately promised to close Guantánamo Bay. But he encountered unexpected bipartisan opposition. Congress did not want terror suspects jailed in the United States. He did reduce the inmate population from around 240 to less than 50. In February 2021, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki declared that it is “certainly our goal and our intention” to close Guantánamo Bay before Joe Biden leaves office. 


World events are not always consistent with political intentions. A combination of domestic strife and a serious earthquake have driven people from Haiti. Many came to the U.S. American officials have already expelled several thousand migrants, creating a need for additional facilities in places like Guantánamo Bay.


Contractors in Guantánamo Bay


Construction, compliance, and security are three immediate needs in Guantánamo Bay. These are also three areas where private military contractors excel.


As mentioned, the current migrant detention facility on Guantánamo Bay is quite small. Expanding it means more than adding a few beds. All other facilities, such as restrooms, dining facilities, common areas, administrative space, and so on, must be expanded, as well. Contractors are adept at completing such projects on time and under budget. That is an appealing combination for government bureaucrats. Furthermore, when the government uses contractors, there are no ancillary or startup costs. The contractors simply show up and start work.


A political appointee’s assertion that everything is above board at the facility is not convincing. That is especially true for migrant detainees, who have committed no violent crime and who have strong sympathy factors among many Americans. A single compliance officer will not do. This officer needs investigators and other support personnel. That is the only way to ensure that everything at Guantánamo Bay really does meet safety and human rights standards.


Speaking of safety, detention facilities badly need compassionate security officers. More than likely, the migrants will not try to tunnel through the walls. Where would they go? However, they are understandably not happy about their situations, and if they riot, they could get hurt. Since many private military contractors are former law enforcement officers, they know how to deter wrongdoers without being obvious or heavy-handed.


Injury Compensation Available


Compliance officers do not appear on any most dangerous jobs lists. Construction and security are much different matters. Injuries are common in these professions, especially in places like Guantánamo Bay where there is no OSHA oversight. Additionally, office workers are not immune from illness or injury. An open desk drawer can cause a fall just as easily as an uneven walkway in a construction area.


Because of these hazards, the Defense Base Act, a 1941 law, compensates injured contractors by paying medical bills and replacing lost wages.


The critical medical bill payment benefit covers all reasonably necessary medical expenses related to the illness or injury, such as:


  • Emergency care,
  • Follow-up medical treatment,
  • Transportation expenses,
  • Medical devices,
  • Prescription drugs,
  • Maintenance medical treatment,
  • Diagnostic tests, and
  • Physical therapy.


Falls are a good example of a trauma injury. These incidents occur suddenly and without warning. Hearing loss is the most common occupational disease among private military contractors. Sounds as soft as 35 decibels, which is basically the noise a hairdryer makes, could cause permanent hearing loss.


In terms of lost wages, the DBA insurance company usually pays two-thirds of a victim’s average weekly wage for the duration of a disability. This disability need not happen “on the clock” and it need not be directly connected to the deployment. An indirect connection, such as a fall on a shopping trip, usually suffices.


For more information about DBA procedure, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.