ICE contractor held 1-year-old migrants in hotels before deporting them: report

ICE contractor held 1-year-old migrants in hotels before deporting them: report
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The Trump administration has detained migrant children as young as 1 year old in U.S. hotels before deporting them during the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Government records on children and teenagers expelled in April and June indicate Hampton Inn & Suites hotels in Texas and Arizona were used 186 times by a private contractor for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold minors. At least two 1-year-old children were detained for three days, and children between the ages of 3 and 5 were held for weeks, according to the records, while a 5-year-old was held for 19 days in a hotel.

While both anti-trafficking laws and legal precedent require the U.S. to detain most minors for placement with family sponsors, the Trump administration has been expediting the deportation of asylum-seekers, citing the public health emergency prompted by the pandemic.

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ICE uses the private contractor MVM Inc. to “transport single minors to hotels and to ensure each minor remains safe and secure while in this temporary housing,” according to the agency, and extended its contract with the firm for $49 million on March 31.

Legal advocates, who are challenging the legality of detaining children in hotels under the decades-old Flores agreement, told the AP the situation was traumatic to children and that neither the hotels nor the contractors were equipped to hold and care for them.

“They’ve created a shadow system in which there’s no accountability for expelling very young children,” Leecia Welch, an attorney at the nonprofit National Center for Youth Law, told the AP. “There really aren’t enough words to describe what a disgraceful example of sacrificing children this is to advance heartless immigration policies.”

ICE told the AP the contractors are nonlaw-enforcement staff members trained to work with minors and to ensure that all aspects of the transport or stay are compliant” with Flores.

When reached for comment by The Hill, MVM said its contract with ICE prevented it from discussing matters with the media.

An ICE spokesperson told The Hill the agency cannot comment due to pending litigation.

Updated at 2:57 p.m.