A Texas nonprofit has opened up a temporary shelter for migrant families seeking asylum at a closed hotel in central Scottsdale.
According to a statement from the City of Scottsdale, U.S. Homeland Security/U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement notified local officials on May 28 that a federal contractor would begin operating May 29 at the former Homewood Suites located at Scottsdale Road and Mountain View.
A city spokesman told the Progress that Texas-based Endeavors reached out to city staff earlier on May 24 to notify them it would be opening the facility.
An ICE spokesperson declined to answer specific questions but provided a statement to the Progress:
“Starting April 9 in Texas and Arizona, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will provide emergency temporary shelter and process families placed in its custody through a short-term contract with Endeavors.
“The border is not open, and individuals continue to be expelled under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health authority.”
The statement continued, “The families that come into ICE custody will be housed in a manner consistent with legal requirements for the safety and well-being of children and their parents or guardians.
“Custody is intended to be short term, generally less than 72 hours, to allow for immigration enforcement processing and establishing appropriate terms and conditions of release while their immigration proceedings continue. All families will be tested for COVID-19 and receive a health assessment at these Emergency Family Staging Centers.”
A contract between Endeavors and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows Endeavors is contracted to provide up to 1,239 beds for temporary shelter in Arizona and Texas through Sept. 30.
That will pay Endeavors up to $86.9 million.
Even before this particular contract, IRS filings by the nonprofit show Endeavors has received more than $40 million annually the last three years in various city, state and federal grants and contracts to provide a wide range of services to veterans, the homeless and migrants.
Services provided to individuals at the property and other locations include short term, emergency lodging, including meals for each occupant; electrostatic cleaning, hygiene kits, laundry services as needed; access to legal service providers and information on the immigration legal process; access to medical and mental health care services; and transportation to regional airports/bus stations compliant with COVID-19 protocols.
ICE will apply its Family Residential Standards as its quality-of-care model for all of those housed at the hotels, “with modifications to educational services at both and limited recreational facilities at the hotels,” one source said on condition of anonymity.
Families will be provided clothing, meals/snacks, access to medical care, legal counsel, unlimited phone access and individual rooms for appropriate physical distancing, the source added.
ICE also was said to be coordinating with non-governmental organizations to provide families with temporary shelter upon their release, as well as food, water, clothing, and transportation services “to help mitigate strains placed on resources in the local community,” the source said.
Arizona-based Woodbridge Hospitality LLC, which owns the Scottsdale hotel property, stands to make $316,000 per month as part of the deal, according to court documents.
Woodbridge Hospitality is currently being sued by its lender in Maricopa County Superior Court for alleged breach of contract on a $9-million loan the property owner took out in 2015.
According to the lawsuit, the lender accused Woodbridge Hospitality of multiple breaches of the loan contract, including failing to make payments.
According to the complaint filed in court, Woodbridge stopped making monthly payments on the loan in May 2020 and has accrued over $500,000 in back payments.
The total outstanding loan amount is now $9.2 million, according to the lender.
Attorneys for the lender have asked the judge to appoint a receiver over the property and issue an injunction to stop the hotel from being used as a migrant detention facility.
They argued detention would lower the value of the property’s resale value.
Attorneys for Woodbridge Hospitality have opposed the injunction, arguing the company could use a portion of the $316,000 in monthly payments it will receive in the ICE deal to make debt payments.
They also asked the judge not to appoint a receiver over the property because Woodbridge is already in negotiations to sell the hotel for $17.5 million, about $8.2 million more than it owes on the loan.
According to a response filed in court, Woodbridge expects that sale to close in September.
“The purchaser is fully committed to closing the purchase and paying the Purchase Price which will result in Plaintiff’s claim being paid in full, as well as the payment in full of several other junior lien holders, taxing authorities with claims against Woodbridge, and other creditors of Woodbridge,” according to the response.
The court documents do not list a buyer, but documents on file with the city’s Planning Department show Scottsdale-based Sterling Real Estate Partners has already filed an application with the city connected to the property.
According to documents filed with the city, Sterling Real Estate Partners hopes to rezone the property in order to convert it from a hotel to condominiums.
The temporary shelter has received some blowback in the community from those opposed to opening the temporary shelter facility.
An online petition on the ipetitions.com titled “Dissolve Detention Center for Illegal Migrants in Scottsdale” had gathered over 1,700 signatures as of June 2, though it’s unknown how many signers live in Scottsdale or the surrounding area.
The petitioners’ assertion that the facility is housing illegal immigrants is incorrect.
According to the City of Scottsdale, the facility will house families seeking political asylum that are being processed and taken to transportation as they continue their journey to a sponsor family or organization.
The families who are being housed by Endeavors did not sneak across the border illegally but are seeking asylum.
The right to seek asylum was incorporated into international law following the atrocities of World War II. Congress adopted key provisions of the Geneva Refugee Convention, including the international definition of a refugee, into U.S. immigration law when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980.
However, asylum seekers do not automatically have a right to stay in the U.S.
Rather, they typically are placed in either immigration court removal proceedings, where they will have a future opportunity to make their case before an administrative judge, or in expedited removal proceedings, which allow border agents to deport them without a hearing.
Endeavors is providing shelter while the migrants await these proceedings.
Endeavors boasts on its website of being “a longstanding national nonprofit agency that provides various programs and services supporting children, families, veterans, and those struggling with mental illness, disabilities, disasters, or emergencies. Endeavors has served vulnerable people in need since 1969 through personalized services.”
It contracts with private landlords – including, apparently, owners of little used hotels – and says it “specializes in case management and provides financial assistance to homeless individuals and their families.”
“Endeavors case managers work individually with clients to remove barriers to housing and provide connections to wrap-around services, including financial literacy education, job skills training, benefits enrollment, mental health services and life skills training,” it says on its website.
Basel Mousslly, Endeavors’ deputy director of migrant services, is himself a refugee, having fled to the U.S. from war-ravaged Syria, according to his biography.
Endeavors describes its migrant services as including “direct care, migrant wellness support, case management, home study and post-release services, staffing, and holistic programming for unaccompanied migrant children and families.”
“Seeking protection from the persecution and deteriorating social and economic conditions in their home countries, increasing amounts of migrant children and families have traveled to the United States hoping to make better lives for themselves,” Endeavors states on its website.
“Through our Migrant Services programs, we provide direct care, migrant wellness support, case management, home study and post-release services, staffing, and holistic programming for unaccompanied migrant children and families. Endeavors has served migrants since 2012.”
Scottsdale officials stressed immigration falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government and the city has no power to shut down the shelter facility.
The city encouraged residents with concerns to contact the offices of their federal representation.
Progress Executive Editor Paul Maryniak contributed to this report.