The Trump administration is detaining immigrant children as young as 1 in hotels, sometimes for weeks, before deporting them to their home countries under policies that have effectively shut down the nation’s asylum system during the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
A private contractor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is taking children to three Hampton Inn & Suites hotels in Arizona and at the Texas-Mexico border, where they are typically detained for several days, the records show. The hotels have been used nearly 200 times, while more than 10,000 beds for children sit empty at government shelters.
Federal anti-trafficking laws and a two-decade-old court settlement that governs the treatment of migrant children require that most kids be sent to the shelters for eventual placement with family sponsors. But President Donald Trump’s administration is now immediately expelling people seeking asylum in the U.S., relying on a public health declaration to set aside those rules.
Lawyers and advocates say housing unaccompanied migrant children in hotels exposes them to the risk of trauma as they’re detained in places not designed to hold them and cared for by contractors with unclear credentials. They are challenging the use of hotels as detention spaces under the Flores court settlement.