PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Immigration and Customs Enforcement spent $5 million on hotel rooms in the Phoenix area that sat empty during an effort to house migrants in 2021, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General of Department of Homeland Security.
The ICE program was launched in early 2021 in anticipation of increasing apprehensions of families crossing the US-Mexico border. The hotels were intended to house migrant families while they were processed by the agency.
ICE has contracted with Endeavors to open more than a thousand hotel rooms in eight hotels for use as “emergency family foster sites”. Three of these hotels were in Arizona: “Casa de Esperanza” in Yuma, “Casa de la Luz” and “Casa de Alegria” in the Phoenix area. Hotels have been renamed based on their brand names.
The inspector general found that ICE spent about $17 million on unused hotel space and services. Of the $17 million spent on unused hotel space, about $3 million was mis-spent at Casa de la Luz and about $2 million was mis-spent at Casa de Alegria.
Federal officials say they also found that hotels had measures in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but “several testing practices were deficient.” In its response to the Inspector General, ICE said six of the eight hotels were demobilized in December 2021 and the remaining two hotels were open until March 2022.
ICE said that after the hotels end their use, they transition to “alternatives to detention programs.” They say they will “conduct an assessment to appropriately determine the families’ housing needs before entering into a similar or new contract”.
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