August 24, 2020
Policy Summary

In July, there were 40,476 detentions at the US Southern Border, a 24% increase from June and more than 50% from April. Major hotel chains – such as Quality Suites, Hampton Inns, Comfort Suites Hotel, Best Western, and Econo Lodge in Seattle, Los Angeles, El Paso, Miami, Phoenix, and San Diego – have been used to detain migrant children and families taken into custody at the border during the pandemic. The aggressive border closures as a result of COVID-19 have caused hotel detentions to increase rapidly. Most of the detained include unaccompanied children and families.

Additionally, the hotel detention system has created a path for swift expulsions without safeguards intended to protect vulnerable migrants. Expulsions surged under the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 border ban and take place almost immediately once migrants encounter immigration agents. Due to the uptick in border crossings, the Administration has worked closely with MVM, Inc., a private corporation that largely provides transportation and security to detained migrant children and families. Before the pandemic, MVM was used to transport migrant families from the border to family detention centers. MVM security workers were also sent to oversee the erected tent courts established to process cases of asylum seekers who have waited out their cases in Mexico, per the Remain in Mexico policy of 2019. Expulsions have replaced deportation proceedings as the primary way of processing migrants who have tried to enter during the pandemic and over 100,000 have been expelled since.

Hotel detainment operates as an unregulated system of detention that exists outside the formal federal detention system. Participating hotels are not subject to providing access to phones, healthy food, medical and mental health care nor policies intended to prevent abuse in federal custody, such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act (allows for independent reporting of physical or sexual abuse by government workers/contractors) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (ensures children who will be abused or tortured in their home countries are not sent back). Detained migrants are not assigned identification numbers in the hotel system and thus parents and/or lawyers have no regulated way of finding or monitoring children in hotel custody.

Engagement Resources

  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • Border Network for Human Rights: network to engage education, organization and participation of border communities to defend human rights and work towards a society where everyone is equal in rights and dignity.
  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
  • Center for Disease Control: the CDC provides updated information surrounding COVID-19 and the US responses
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