Monitor calls on US to stop detaining migrant kids in hotels

A court-appointed monitor for immigrant youth called on the US government to stop detaining children as young as 1 in hotels before expelling them to their home countries, saying the practice could lead to emotional and physical harm.
In a report filed late Wednesday, Andrea Ordin also said there appeared to be a “lack of formal oversight” over the contractors hired by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain children at Hampton Inn & Suites hotels in three cities.

“Isolating a child alone in a hotel room for 10-14 days can have a more harmful emotional impact than that seen in adults,” she wrote.

The Trump administration is detaining children instead of turning them over to government shelters under an emergency declaration citing the coronavirus.

The administration argues it must shut down the U.S.-Mexico border to asylum seekers due to the virus, but advocates allege the virus is being used as an excuse to circumvent federal anti-trafficking law and court-ordered standards for the treatment of children.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Hampton Inns in Phoenix and the Texas border cities of McAllen and El Paso have been used nearly 200 times in two months to detain children the government is waiting to expel.

An advocate who visited the McAllen hotel found that workers were going room to room on the fourth and fifth floors caring for children. In one room, a small child held onto a gate as an adult played with the child on the other side, the advocate said.

At least two 1-year-olds were held for three days, according to government data obtained by AP. But some young children, including 3- to 5-year-olds, were detained for two weeks or longer. One 5-year-old was detained for 19 days in McAllen.

In her report, Ordin described the hotels as having become “an integral component of the immigration detention system.”

She provided new details on how hotel detention is supposed to work. Children are separated into hotel rooms by age and gender, with siblings allowed to have adjoining rooms with a connecting door.

A child must be “within the line of sight” of a contractor at all times. The contractors — whom ICE refers to as “transportation specialists” — must wear business casual clothing that cannot be used to identify them. 
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