Migrant Families Detained in Private Hotels Uncovered by Legal Advocates

By Sandra Harris

Bourgeois media outlets and nonprofit immigration advocacy organizations recently discovered that migrant children and adults were being detained in hotels along the US-Mexico border region before they were being expelled without deportation proceedings.

Last week, the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project found one of the hotels, a Hampton Inn & Suites in McAllen, Texas where migrants were housed prior to expulsion. One of their attorneys attempted to enter a floor of the hotel before he was stopped by men in plainclothes who refused to identify themselves, and shoved the attorney back into an elevator, kicking him out.

Detained migrants peer out of hotel windows.

Since early March, the “health and welfare” provisions of Title 42 of the U.S. Code have been cited to expel thousands of asylum-seekers upon arriving to the United States without any processing through the legal system. The Trump administration has opportunistically seized on the coronavirus to further bend the bourgeois legal system, which already fails the thousands of migrants legally seeking asylum in the United States.

The Associated Press had originally reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employed a private contractor to take more than 200 migrants to hotels in McAllen, Phoenix, and El Paso before expelling them from the United States. Many of the recent detainees are Black migrants from Haiti held without process.

Migrants write messages to activists outside reading “We Need Your Help” and “We don’t have phone”

Upon discovery of the detainees, ICE initially claimed to the media there were no migrants housed at the hotel. Many advocates began gathering outside the Hampton Inn and had signs for phone numbers the detainees could call, but the detained adults put handwritten signs up to the windows saying “We have no phone.”

“People were detained there secretly,” one of the attorneys with Texas Civil Rights Project told the media. “There were no government vehicles, ICE vehicles, Border Patrol vehicles. This was not an official ICE detention center so it was being done secretly.”

ICE officials later admitted the contractor, MVM Inc. “was on location” at the McAllen hotel “providing temporary housing for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” MVM is an Ashburn, Virginia based private security contractor that “provides extensive domain expertise in the areas of counter-narcotics, criminal and civil investigations, public safety, and national security.” In recent years it has received millions of dollars in funds from the US government to transport unaccompanied migrant children.

After multiple media requests, Hilton Hotels & Resorts denounced the use of the hotels under their name for migrant detention. “This is not activity that we support or in any way want associated with our hotels.” The location is independently owned and operated, but the owners said they would no longer accept similar reservations in the future.

On Friday, the Texas Civil Rights Project sued the Department of Homeland Security over the ongoing expulsions of asylum seekers. On Saturday, the detainees were being transferred from the hotel in the midst of Hurricane Hanna, which hit the McAllen area of the Rio Grande Valley with heavy storms and flooding. All of this occurs as the Valley has been a hotspot for coronavirus in Texas.