HOUSTON (AP) — The Trump administration is detaining immigrant children as young as 1 in hotels before deporting them to their home countries.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show a private contractor hired by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is taking children to three Hampton Inns in Arizona and Texas under restrictive border policies implemented during the coronavirus pandemic.
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.
Federal immigration authorities say the contractors caring for the kids are “non-law enforcement staff members trained to work with minors.”
Hilton, which owns the Hampton Inn brand, said in a statement Tuesday that all three hotels were franchises and it believed rooms were booked directly with those owners. Hilton wouldn’t say how many rooms had been used to detain children or how much the rooms cost.