Legal groups sue US to stop expulsion of children previously held in hotel rooms

Legal groups sue US to stop expulsion of children previously held in hotel rooms
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The ACLU has sued the Trump administration in an attempt to stop the government from expelling migrant children who were being detained in hotel rooms without being able to properly seek refuge in the U.S.

The Associated Press reported earlier in the week that children who had arrived at the border without their parents were being detained in a trio of Hampton Inn hotels in Phoenix, Ariz., and in McAllen and El Paso, Texas.

On Friday, the owners of the Hampton in McAllen said that they had ended all reservations of the rooms used to detain the children, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that all of the minors had been taken away from the hotel, but would not disclose where they had been taken, noting security concerns.

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According to the AP, the hotels have been used nearly 200 times to detain migrant children, with some children as young as 1.

Federal law dictates that most children who arrive at the border should be sent to shelters and eventually placed with family sponsors.

However, the administration is trying to circumvent this rule due to the coronavirus pandemic, citing a directive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The Trump administration is holding children in secret in hotels, refusing to give lawyers access to them so it can expel them back to danger without even a chance for the children to show they warrant asylum,” Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the wire service.

The ACLU filed the suit with the District Court in Washington, D.C., along with the Texas Civil Rights Project, Oxfam and The Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

Hilton, which owns Hampton Inn, said in a statement Friday evening that it does not support its hotels being used to detain minors.

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"Our policy has always been that hotels should not be used as detention centers or for detaining individuals. We expect all Hilton properties to reject business that would use a hotel in this way," the company said in a statement.

In a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfFederal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Watch live: Acting DHS chief testifies on deployment of federal agents to protests MORE on Friday, a group of congressional Democrats expressed "deep alarm" to the detention of the migrant children.

“We are gravely concerned that the CDC order is being grossly misused to circumvent asylum and child welfare protections,” lawmakers said in the letter.