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Border & Immigration

Migrants Are Being Held In Hotels And Then Expelled Without Access To Attorneys

Migrants peek out of the window of the fourth floor of a Hampton Inn in McAllen on July 23.
Dominic Anthony Walsh | Texas Public Radio
Migrants peak out of the window of the fourth floor of a Hampton Inn in McAllen, Texas on Thursday July 23, 2020.

This post has been updated to reflect a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Trump Administration has been detaining migrant children and adults in hotels and then quickly expelling them to their home countries. A Hampton Inn in McAllen, Texas is one of those hotels, according to records obtained by the Associated Press.

A video shows Texas Civil Rights Project Attorney Andrew Udelsman attempting to access the fourth floor of the Hampton Inn hotel. A group of men ask for his badge. They refused to identify themselves, and shoved him into an elevator.

Udelsman said they are contractors with MVM, Inc. In an email response to TPR inquiries, MVM confirmed that it has a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement but referred requests for comment to ICE.

About 24 hours after TPR reached out for comment, ICE confirmed that MVM contractors were positioned on the fourth floor of the hotel "to ensure the safety of those in custody."

The statement also said there are no detainees at the site currently. But at the time of the incident, people were seen holding up handwritten signs that read "We need your help," and "We don't have phone."

In response to questions about how many families and children were held at the hotel and where they had been sent, ICE referred TPR back to its original statement, which answered neither question. 

The agency said the incident is "under review."

After Udelsman was forced out of the fourth floor, the Texas Civil Rights Project took to Twitter. A small group of people gathered outside the hotel Thursday.

hampton_2.jpg
Credit Dominic Anthony Walsh / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Migrants peaking out of the fourth floor of a Hampton Inn in McAllen, Texas on Thursday July 23, 2020.

Udelsman said this is part of a pattern of ICE and Customs and Border Protection holding immigrants at hotels without legal representation before expelling them.

“This is completely illegal,” he said. “They're violating domestic and international law, and they're committing grave abuses against these children.”

In a statement on Twitter, Hilton said the ownership of the Hilton Inn in McAllen had ended its business with the private contractor — MVM, Inc. — and the company had sent guidance to other independently owned Hilton hotels on how to identify and prevent "this type of business."

"This is not activity that we support or in any way want associated with our hotels," the statement read.  

Since late March, the Trump administration has implemented an order that quickly expels migrants without hearings, effectively ending the asylum process under the pretext of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

On Friday, The Texas Civil Rights Project announced a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security over the ongoing extrajudicial expulsions of asylum seekers.  TCRP said it learned some migrant families were being moved during the Hurricane on Saturday.

Hilton said on Sunday that all migrants would be relocated from its hotel no later than Monday. 

Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@tpr.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony.