Immigrant and asylum-seeking children separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy were placed in an empty office building in Phoenix with darkened windows, few amenities, and that was not licensed by the state of Arizona for childcare.
A concerned neighbor filmed a cellphone video of dozens of immigrant kids in sweatsuits being escorted into the facility in early June, according to Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. The 3,200-square-foot office building is leased by the Virginia-based defense contractor MVM, which since 2014, has received up to $248 million worth of contracts to transport immigrant children, Reveal found.
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy in announced in March criminally prosecutes anyone that crosses the southern US border outside a port of entry, even when they are seeking asylum, and separated children. In June, following public outcry over the policy’s cruelty, Trump signed an executive order that essentially detains families together.
After being confronted with the video, an MVM spokesman told Reveal that the building was being used as a “temporary holding place” for kids being flown out of the Phoenix airport and other locations for a few hours.
MVM also entered into a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allows the defense contractor to use their office spaces as waiting areas for children being transported between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Health and Human Services custody, the immigration enforcement agency confirmed to Reveal.
The lease, which does not allow sleeping or cooking at the building, says it is to be used for “general business office purposes.” However, reporters at Reveal spotted an air mattress, a box labeled “baby shampoo,” a medication schedule, and other items suggesting that children were being held there for an extended period.
Three weeks after the kids arrived, neighbors spotted children being driven away from the building in five unmarked white vans on June 22, two days after Trump signed the executive order.
After this story was published, Virginia-based contractor MVM reached out to ThinkProgress, denying that the office building in Phoenix had been used as a holding center for migrant families and children. Contacted about the denial by ThinkProgress, Reveal responded that it stands by its reporting.