Migrant families will be held at hotels in the Phoenix area in response to a growing number of people illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, authorities said Friday.
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema was told that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will occupy “several hotels along the southwest border, including in Chandler and Phoenix,” her office said in a statement. Chandler is a Phoenix suburb more than 150 miles north of the border.
ICE declined to identify specific hotels and locations, saying only that its $86.9 million contract announced last month with Endeavors Inc. will provide about 1,200 hotel beds in Texas and Arizona.
Migrant families will generally stay less than 72 hours for processing.
The contract says the San Antonio-based provider of veterans care, disaster relief and migrant services already has beds available at hotels in Chandler and the Texas cities of El Paso and Cotulla, southwest of San Antonio.
The first families to be housed in hotels under the contract were set to arrive Friday.
Sinema’s office said the Democratic senator spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and will hold him “accountable for protecting Arizona communities and ensuring all migrants are treated fairly and humanely.”
Border Patrol encountered 52,904 families attempting to illegally cross the Mexican border last month, up from 19,286 in February and 3,455 in March 2020.
The Endeavors contract says authorities anticipate the highest number of family arrivals in 20 years during the 12-month period ending Sept. 30.
Only about one in three families encountered last month was quickly expelled from the U.S. under federal pandemic-related powers that deny migrants a chance to seek asylum.
Immigration authorities have been releasing families with children 6 years old and younger into the country while their cases are decided.
Mexico also has resisted taking back Central American families with young children, especially in Tamaulipas state bordering Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.
The U.S. flies some families to other border cities — San Diego and El Paso — to be expelled to Mexico from there.
To save time, Border Patrol has been releasing migrant families — about 9,600 people as of Tuesday, according to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar — without notices to appear in court. Instead, they’re told to report to an ICE office in 60 days.
The contract with Endeavors comes as the Biden administration is scrambling to find more space to hold families and unaccompanied children.
Border Patrol picked up nearly 19,000 children traveling alone last month, its highest monthly total on record.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — which places unaccompanied children with sponsors in the U.S., most often parents and close relatives — has placed children in convention centers, military bases and other large venues.
Los Angeles County officials said Friday that its fairgrounds will be used to temporarily house up to 2,500 unaccompanied children.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, asked the administration to close a holding facility for unaccompanied children at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, citing allegations that they aren’t getting enough to eat and that boys are unsupervised in showers.
Reports of sexual assault, bullying, understaffing & disregard for COVID protocols at the Freeman Coliseum facility are unacceptable.
The Biden Admin. must SHUT DOWN this facility & protect these children.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 9, 2021
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that authorities would investigate Abbott’s claims but that there is not yet any basis to shut down the facility.
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