The e-commerce housewares brand Wayfair has drawn the ire of progressives this week for allegedly selling furniture that has ultimately been used to outfit migrant detention centers along the southern border, but many of the headlines have left out a couple important facts.
A petition for the walkout, which took place Wednesday, garnered more than 500 signatures and earned the support of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The outrage seems a little odd to begin with, given the alternative to not purchasing bedding from somewhere would result in the migrant children having no beds on which to sleep. Furthermore, Wayfair has not actually been selling directly to the government-operated facilities.
On June 13, the furniture company reportedly sold $200,000 worth of mattresses to the nonprofit charity Baptist Child and Family Services (BCFS), which, according to Time, was commissioned in 2014 by then-President Barack Obama to help aid migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Obama met with BCFS President Kevin Dinnin on July 9, 2014, when the crisis along the border first began. More from Time:
[BCFS] runs two of the largest facilities for temporarily housing immigrant children, as well as six permanent shelters in California and Texas. Since December, BCFS has received more than $280 million in federal grants to operate these shelters, according to government records. On July 7, two days before Dinnin met Obama in Dallas, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded BCFS $190,707,505 in a single grant.
And since 2015, according to a 2018 report from The New York Times, BCFS has received at least $179 million in various federal grants. The charity, according to its own description, works with “government agencies, corporations, non-profits, and community leaders to develop programs and service models that combat challenges in health and human services.”
When the partnership was first formed, Obama described the influx of unaccompanied minors along the southern border as an “urgent humanitarian situation requiring a unified and coordinated federal response.”
Following the outcry over the alleged sale by Wayfair, a BCFS spokesperson told Vox, “We believe youth should sleep in beds with mattresses.”
Evelyn Stauffer, director of communications at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, told Vox those protesting Wayfair’s reported sale to BCFS “need to ask themselves what the alternative should be to keep the children comfortable.”
“We appreciate businesses that are able to quickly supply these necessities to provide comfort to the children,” she added.
There’s no doubt the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border is problematic, but there are two issues I see with the Wayfair protests: The first is the fact the partnership between BCFS and the government was established under Obama, so where was the outrage then? And second, how is it helpful to jeopardize a sale to a charity seemingly bettering what is certainly a bad situation for unaccompanied children?
One of the protesters seemed to answer the second issue, at least in part. The Wayfair employee stated his or her main concern is the company making money off the sale to BCFS.
The staffer suggested the profit from the sale be donated “to charity to combat these terrible camps that are out there that we just don’t want to have anything to do with.”
That employee, who did not disclose his or her name, said Wayfair co-founder Steve Conine indicated during a Tuesday meeting the company would donate the money it made from the mattress sale, but didn’t disclose any details about the potential contribution.