Advocacy Groups, Unions Urge Hotels to Stop Helping ICE Detain Migrants

By Shani Saxon Jul 22, 2019

Major hotel chains have allowed the United States government to house detained migrants in their rooms for decades. However, advocacy groups and unions are asking hotels to stop this practice immediately, The Associated Press reports. They are pressuring Marriott, MGM and several other major companies to refrain from offering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a place to hold migrants who have been arrested. 

Hotels typically like to avoid politics, The AP points out in its report. They usually accept any business that comes their way, and they often work with the government, especially when it comes to providing shelter during natural disasters. 

But they couldn’t avoid politics when the Trump administration announced it would likely use hotels to house people arrested in its planned immigration raids the weekend of July 13. Hotel unions represent thousands of immigrants and they pressured hotels to reject Trump’s proposal. “Marriott, Hilton, Choice Hotels, Best Western, Wyndham, Hyatt, IHG and MGM Resorts all released statements saying they don't want their hotels used to detain migrants,” according to The AP.

Choice Hotels, which owns the Quality Suites brand, reportedly has a signed contract with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which runs ICE, but the company insists there are no plans to renew it. Choice claims it is not currently sheltering any detained migrants. 

D. Taylor, president of the hotel workers union Unite Here, said hotels need to stick to their intended purpose. "Hotels are meant to welcome people from all over the world, not jail them," he said. 

Acting ICE director Matthew Albence told The AP that his agency uses hotels “strategically” to keep families together before transferring them to detentions centers or deporting them. According to The AP, “As of July 16, the agency had 53,459 individuals in custody, including 311 members of families.”

"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. 

Although hotel corporations have decided to take a stand against ICE housing detained migrants in their buildings, there is little companies can do to stop franchises—which reportedly account for 88 percent of the hotels in the U.S.—from working with ICE. Franchise agreements don’t expressly prohibit the practice, and The AP reports that the government works with hotels on a limited basis:


On a November 2017 list of government detention facilities, just 12 of the 1,685 sites were hotels. The list, obtained by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, also includes county jails and hospitals.

There are also hotels that have cooperated with ICE ahead of arrests. As Colorlines previously reported, back in November 2018, hotel chain Motel 6 was hit with a class action lawsuit and forced to pay $7.6 million to people whose private information it shared with ICE agents. Per the story, “Under the settlement agreement, the hotel chain also agreed to no longer share guests’ personal details with authorities in the absence of a warrant or subpoena.”