U.S. to place some migrant families in hotels in move away from detention centers

Ted Hesson and Kristina Cooke, Reuters

Posted at Mar 21 2021 01:28 AM

U.S. to place some migrant families in hotels in move away from detention centers 1
An asylum-seeking migrant from Central America, who was airlifted from McAllen to El Paso, Texas, and deported from the U.S., carries a child as the Lerdo Stanton international border bridge is seen in the background, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico March 18, 2021. Jose Luis Gonzalez, File Photo/Reuters

WASHINGTON - Some migrant families arriving in the United States will be housed in hotels under a new program managed by non-profit organizations, according to two people familiar with the plans, a move away from for-profit detention centers that have been criticized by Democrats and health experts.

Endeavors, a San Antonio-based organization, will oversee what it calls "family reception sites" at hotels in Texas and Arizona, the two sources said. The organization, in partnership with other non-profits, will initially provide up to 1,400 beds in seven different brand-name hotels for families deemed vulnerable when caught at the border.

The opening of the reception centers would mark a significant shift by the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, away from the detention of migrant families in for-profit facilities.

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In January, Biden issued an order directing the Justice Department not to renew its contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities. However, the order did not address immigration jails run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Roughly 900 migrants are currently being held in two family detention centers in Texas, according to ICE data. A third center in Pennsylvania is no longer being used to hold families.

The number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border has climbed in recent weeks as Biden has rolled back some of the hardline policies of former President Donald Trump, a Republican.

Biden, who took office on Jan. 20, has faced criticism from Republicans for reversing those policies. At the same time, some Democrats opposed Biden's administration re-opening a Trump-era emergency shelter for children.

The hotel sites, set to open in April, will offer COVID-19 testing, medical care, food services, social workers and case managers to help with travel and onward destinations, according to the two sources, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter. Staff will be trained to work with children.

It remained unclear whether migrants would be required to wear ankle bracelets or be subject to any other form of monitoring, the people said.

The families will arrive at border patrol stations and then be sent to the hotel sites to continue immigration paperwork, which is currently done in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities, the two sources said. They could leave the reception centers as early as six hours after arrival if paperwork is completed, they test negative for COVID-19 and transportation has been arranged.

The housing of some migrants in hotels was reported by Axios earlier on Saturday.

Endeavors will also operate a new 2,000-bed shelter for unaccompanied children in Texas, the sources said. 

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Ross Colvin and Daniel Wallis)

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