PHOENIX– The Arizona Latino Caucus and Arizona State Rep. Kelli Butler released the following statement on the detention of migrant children in Arizona hotels.
“In recent days, it has come to light that a private contractor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been taking unaccompanied and separated children to three Hampton Inn & Suites hotels in Arizona and at the Texas-Mexico border, where they are typically detained for several days. This is more cruelty from an administration that has shown it’s willing to sacrifice children to further a heartless political agenda. ICE may think that no one will care about these children or advocate for their well being because they are undocumented. They are wrong.
We shouldn’t be detaining children at all, let alone traumatizing them by hiding them in hotels or black-site facilities like office buildings with no accountability. As of 2018, Senate investigators said the department could not determine the whereabouts of 1,488 out of 11,254 children the agency had placed with sponsors. This is a shadow system with no apparent regard for safety and wellbeing of the children. Regardless of status, we need to prioritize the health and safety of these children and not further traumatize them. We need answers to where these children are being held now and if they are safe. Are they receiving access to legal representation? Are they being deported with no family contacts to countries where their lives are at risk? Are they being trafficked or abused? These are questions that need answers.
These children should be in licensed facilities that have experience working with this population and have a level of state oversight. Especially in the midst of a pandemic where detention facilities have had rampant outbreaks of COVID-19, how are these children being protected? According to HHS, 86 migrant minors in their custody have already tested positive for COVID-19, two of them in Arizona as of July 16. We’re grateful that Remington Hotels and Hampton Inn Phoenix-Airport North have confirmed they will end business with the contractor, but we still need to know what will happen to these children. At the end of the day these children should be with their parents and families, but at the very least they should be in the protection of licensed shelters that are operated with accountability and oversight.”
Editor: What is needed is for the U.S. House and Senate to fulfill their Constitutional duty of oversight of the Executive Branch by investigating these abuses of the rights of child asylum seekers, and get answers to the questions in this letter. It is a sad commentary on the parlous state of governance in this country that we cannot easily and immediately answer them. -MB