Migrants peak out of the window of the fourth floor of a Hampton Inn in McAllen, Texas, on Thursday July 23, 2020.

The US detained hundreds of migrant children in hotels as the pandemic flared

Updated 12:20 PM ET, Thu September 3, 2020

(CNN)Hundreds of migrant children have been held in hotels and guarded by government contractors in recent months as part of a secretive new system that advocates warn puts kids in danger.

Immigrant and civil rights groups accuse the US government of using the pandemic to create a shadow immigration system that skirts the law, with authorities denying vulnerable children protections they're entitled to and rushing to kick them out of the country.
"These children are being held at what are essentially black sites, with no access to the outside world. And not only no access to the outside world, but no access to the immigration system," says Karla Marisol Vargas, a senior attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project.
"This whole process is egregious, period," Vargas says. "It is a violation...of every single protection that these children have."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to respond to CNN's questions about the use of hotels to detain children and families, citing pending litigation. But officials have defended the practice in court filings, arguing that they're protecting the safety of kids in custody while following new public health guidelines.