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The Trump administration is using hotels to hold children, frequently unattended, before deportation. Photo: Oakland Magazine
The Trump administration is using hotels to hold children, frequently unattended, before deportation. Photo: Oakland Magazine

How ICE has secretly been detaining children in hotels under the cover of COVID-19

Detaining children in secret hotels is a new low, but not unexpected. This is the product of a steady stream of unchecked progression.

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COVID-19 has given the Trump administration leeway to expedite deportations, even putting minors in incredibly precarious situations.

In fact, the Trump administration has been getting away with a lot when it comes to immigration since COVID-19 became a nationwide emergency. His administration has strengthened immigration regulations and made it more difficult for migrants to gain humanitarian protection all under the cover of the pandemic.

This did not begin with detaining child migrants in hotels, oftentimes unprotected, or unaccompanied. This is just the level at which the progression has reached.

As soon as COVID-19 became widespread in the United States, the Trump Administration used a CDC warning to effectively ban all asylum requests at the U.S. southern border in March. 

Since the border crackdown, the Trump administration has expelled over 100,000 migrants under the policy.

In June, a new proposal by the administration granted immigration judges the ability to discard a case without a court hearing if they believed there were flaws in the application. 

Some called it a ban on top of the previous ban.

Four months since the Trump administration declared COVID-19 an emergency, cases in ICE detention centers continue to rise. Lawmakers and Hispanic Caucus members have urged for families to be released from ICE facilities in order to decrease exposure to the virus, but no such demands have been met. 

And last month, it was discovered that the Trump administration has been using major hotels to detain children and families taken into custody at the border in a largely unregulated, unsafe, and secretive system, leaving asylum seekers — especially unattended children — increasingly vulnerable.

Some detained have been as young as one years old, reported The New York Times who have arrived at the border with no parents. Alarmingly, children were put under supervision of transportation workers, not licensed or equipped to provide child care.

ICE says children are adequately protected, emphasizing their “swift expulsion” is necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. But the reality is before the public realized about the hotels, ICE had been secretly detaining hundreds of children in hotels scattered across southern border states, and then deporting them without due process.

In many cases, children do not have access to their parents or lawyers.

This process has been “ongoing for decades,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) earlier this month when pressed on the issue. 

Last week, it was found Wolf is not legally eligible to serve in his current role. He, along with acting Deputy Ken Cuccinelli have been serving unlawfully, a government accountability office found, but DHS officials rejected the findings.

These unqualified men are making the decisions that leave children in these situations.

The Trump administration has been getting away with such crimes against humanity through distraction. The coronavirus pandemic continues to be at the forefront of the public’s interest, and now the election. It’s a series of progressions, which, if left unchecked will become the norm.

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