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ICE Wants Hotels to Detain Immigrants. These Chains Said No.

Hotels "are not designed to be used as detention centers."

by Leila Ettachfini
Jul 22 2019, 7:16pm

Photo by Robert Alexander, via Getty Images. 

Earlier this month, the Trump Administration announced that it would be using hotels to hold immigrants captured in the upcoming series of planned raids.

For decades, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has relied on hotels to help detain immigrants it has arrested until they can be transferred to detention facilities or deported. But, as the Trump Administration’s inhumane treatment of immigrants—including children—has become increasingly exposed, public pressure for hotels to refuse compliance is mounting. And, whether for PR or moral reasons, when activist groups like Sanctuary DMV recently began demanding that hotels promise not to comply with ICE. Many agreed preemptively; ICE has yet to actually ask these hotel chains to hold immigrants.

But the matter is tricky: In response to many hotels’ commitments not to comply with ICE if asked to, ICE Director Matthew Albence told The Associated Press that the hotels will be to blame if ICE decides to separate more children from their families due to overcrowding at detention facilities.

“If hotels or other places do not want to allow us to utilize that, they’re almost forcing us into a situation where we’re going to have to take one of the parents and put them in custody and separate them from the rest of their families,” Albence said.

Sanctuary DMV and other activist groups like Tri-State Coalition are still urging hotels that have yet to commit to not working with ICE to do so as soon as possible. “By urging hotels to publicly refuse to comply with ICE, we are taking away a key tool ICE was counting on for this operation,” said Di Jayawickrema, an organizer with Sanctuary DMV. We're throwing a wrench in the works of the deportation machine.”

Here is a list of the chains that have committed to turning down this kind of business, or at least implied they were considering it. [VICE will update this list as things change.]

Best Western

Best Western issued a statement on July 12 in which it did not directly address the call to refuse to work with ICE if asked, but implied something along those lines. The hotel has previously held immigrants for ICE in Southern California.

“We believe that hotels should be used for their intended purpose, which is to provide accommodation for the traveling public,” read its statement.

Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels sent a statement directly to Sanctuary DMV. “We are not aware that any of our franchised hotels, all of which are independently owned and operated, are being asked to serve as detention facilities,” the statement reads. “We do not believe hotels should be used in this way and will decline any requests to do so.”

Hilton (including The Hampton Inn, DoubleTree, and Embassy Suites)

Multi-billion dollar corporation Hilton Hotels—which encompasses 14 hotel brands including The Hampton Inn, DoubleTree, and Embassy Suites—also joined the call to refuse use of its facilities for the detention of immigrants. “The wellbeing, safety and security of our guests and team members is the most important consideration for Hilton properties,” Hilton said in a statement to travel site The Skift. “Our hotels are intended to be welcoming places for all. They are not designed to be used as detention centers, and we reject the idea of using them for this purpose.”

Hyatt

Though Hyatt has yet to release a formal statement on the issue, a global representative for the company told the Miami Herald earlier this month that the hotel group would not detain immigrants if asked to by ICE.

IHG Hotels and Resorts

IHG issued a memo in which it did not explicitly say that it would decline to detain immigrants in its facilities if asked, but did write, “IHG branded hotels are designed and intended for voluntary lodging of guests… we are continuing to monitor the situation.”

Marriott

Marriott International was among the first hotel chains to issue a statement promising not to comply with ICE if asked to detain immigrants in its nearly 4,000 hotels in the U.S. The hotel first sent its statement directly to Sanctuary DMV on July 11 after the activist group organized a campaign asking Marriott not to “help Trump terrorize immigrants.”

“Our hotels are not configured to be detention facilities, but to be open to guests and community members as well,” read Marriott’s statement.

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