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Hotels Caught In Immigration Debate, Must Decide Whether To House Migrants For ICE

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Unions and advocacy groups are pressuring hotels not to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement in housing detained migrants, in the latest showcasing of how the private industry is being dragged into the political battlefield of immigration.

Marriott, Hilton, Choice Hotels, Best Western, Wyndham, Hyatt, IHG and MGM Resorts all released statements explaining that they do not wish to participate in the detention of migrants following President Donald Trump’s announcement of illegal immigrant arrests scheduled for the weekend of July 13, The Associated Press reported.

While the corporate position is made clear by each company’s statement, individual hotels are not necessarily barred from housing migrants since their franchise agreements do not prohibit migrant housing, according to AP.

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Private transportation companies have recently refused to cooperate with ICE in moving detainees to detention centers. United Airlines and American Airlines refused to fly separated migrant children in 2018, while Greyhound instructed authorities to stop dropping off migrants at bus stations, according to AP.

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There is a precedent for the government using hotels as temporary detention centers for migrants in recent history, though the businesses tend to abstain from involvement in politics as much as possible, AP reported.

Unions who represent substantial immigrant populations have reportedly put pressure on hotel chains to opt of out migrant detention.

“Hotels are meant to welcome people from all over the world, not jail them,” the president of the hotel workers union Unite Here, D. Taylor, said according to AP.

ICE uses hotels “strategically” to make sure families stay together before they are deported or sent to detention centers, Acting Director of ICE Matthew Albence told AP News.

“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,” he explained.

The government often pays higher room rates at hotels than the normal customer would, making migrant housing very profitable for these companies, an associate professor of hospitality management at Pennsylvania State University, Daniel Mount, said.

“If the government is saying, ‘We can fill half the hotel at $99 per night for six months or a year,’ that’s hard business to turn away from,” he said in a statement.

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