Councilman Gil Cedillo introduced a motion Tuesday to prohibit Los Angeles hotels from holding migrant children and families who have been detained by private security companies for being in the country illegally.
Cedillo said he was “absolutely appalled” by a report of migrant children and families who illegally entered the country being detained at hotels — including one in his district — by private security firm MVM Inc.
“This is yet another reason why elections matter,” Cedillo said. “We must keep our eyes on the prize, vote and get others to vote to remove President (Donald) Trump and (elect) a new Senate majority that will finally vote and pass immigration reform. This insidious treatment of children and their families is not acceptable.”
Cedillo referenced an article published by The New York Times on Sunday that said the Best Western Plus Dragon Gate Inn in Chinatown was being used to house immigrants transported by MVM, as was a Quality Suites in San Diego; Hampton Inn locations in Phoenix, Arizona, and McAllen and El Paso, Texas; a Comfort Suites hotel in Miami; and an Econo Lodge in Seattle.
The Times reported MVM Inc. has secured $1.9 billion in federal contracts since 2008 and has an agreement in its current contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to not speak to the media about its activities.
According to the Times, the Trump administration has been using major hotel chains to detain children and families taken into custody at the Mexican border, creating what the newspaper described as a largely unregulated shadow system of detention and swift expulsions without the safeguards that are intended to protect the most vulnerable migrants.
“There is zero tolerance for this cruel practice by the White House to separate and detain migrant children and families, and it is unacceptable not only in the First Council District but in the city of Los Angeles or anywhere in this country,” Cedillo said.
The Times reported that more than 100,000 migrants have been expelled under the new policy, but rather than deter border crossings, it appears to have caused them to surge, in part because it eliminates some of the legal consequences for repeat attempts at illegal crossings.
ICE officials told the newspaper that children who have been detained at the hotels are being adequately cared for and emphasized that the swift expulsion is necessary to protect the country from the spread of the coronavirus.
Cedillo’s motion, which will first be heard by the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, would direct city staff to draft an ordinance that would prohibit and suspend any certificate of occupancy for any hotel in Los Angeles being used to house and detain migrant children and families under the direction of private security companies.
Heather Rozman, executive director of The Hotel Association of Los Angeles, condemned the use of Southern California hotels as migrant detention centers and called on any hotel providing rooms for such purpose to stop immediately.
“We applaud Councilmember Gil Cedillo for his quick and appropriate response, ensuring the safety and fair treatment of every individual, no matter their country of origin,” Rozman said.
The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously in March to extend the city’s ban on private companies operating or constructing immigrant detention centers or similar facilities for 10 months and 15 days.
The temporary ban also applies to so-called “shelters” for unaccompanied immigrant minors, like one that was proposed by the company VisionQuest in Arleta, a predominantly Latino community.
VisionQuest repeatedly disputed claims that its project would be akin to the holding facilities at the Mexican border. The company said in a statement to City News Service that it “does not operate detention centers, nor do we have contracts to operate them.”
A resolution by Council President Nury Martinez contended that such a facility is not governed by the city’s code, and she stated that while the ban has been in place, city staff has been looking into the effects that such operations could have on local communities.
A proposal to permanently ban immigrant detention centers and similar facilities in Los Angeles was also being developed for council consideration prior to the pandemic and the Safer at Home orders.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill last October that bans the establishment of private detention facilities from operating in the state.