Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is demanding answers from acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf after recent reports that migrant children are being detained at the Hampton Inn & Suites hotel in Phoenix, unbeknownst to City of Phoenix officials.
“[T]he fact that no one at the City of Phoenix had been notified of your presence meant that the city was unable to prepare for any of the numerous situations that your ongoing operation within the City of Phoenix could create,” Gallego wrote in a letter to Wolf. “Your department’s lack of communication not only creates numerous unknown dangers for those within your custody but countless other residents and visitors to Phoenix who have unknowingly put themselves in increased danger by coming in close proximity with these practices.”
The Associated Press first reported on the existence of the hotel last week and per records they obtained, 169 migrant children and teens were detained at Hampton Inns in McAllen, El Paso and Phoenix, in April and June.
Gallego in her letter is asking that she and other city officials be “briefed” on how Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement is using hotels to detain migrants and migrant children.
“It is also important for us to understand how the legal protections of these children are being honored and the measures that are being taken to ensure children detained in private hotels are receiving the same level of care as they would be in government shelters,” Gallego’s letter says.
An ICE contractor that last year held migrant minors in vacant office buildings in central Phoenix, sometimes overnight, is in charge of transporting the minors to the Phoenix hotel, according to the AP.
Current emergency coronavirus measures allow the Border Patrol to remove people from the country with little processing.
As of July 9, there were approximately 850 migrant children and teens in the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the agency. In September 2019, there were about 5,000 migrant minors in HHS shelters.
According to HHS, 86 migrant minors in the agency’s custody have tested positive for COVID-19, two of them in Arizona, as of July 16.
Two years ago, when an investigation by Reveal found that an ICE contractor was detaining children in space they leased in a Phoenix office building, then-Councilman Kate Gallego — who is now the city’s mayor — chastised ICE for mistreating migrant children and “stashing them inside inadequate facilities not designed for the appropriate care of children.”
Gallego’s letter asks Wolf to reply within 24 hours.
Arizona Mirror reporter Laura Gomez contributed to this report.