In June 2021, hundreds of protesters and some counter-protesters gathered outside a former Homewood Suites hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, demonstrating against its housing of families that were seeking asylum. The facility was reported to be operational since late May.
Snopes readers shared right-wing media outlet Gateway Pundit’s post about the reported housing of asylum seekers with us. The post claimed that Homewood Suites in Scottsdale was operating as an “illegal immigrant safehouse.” The headline also stated, “Discovered: Migrant Safe House in Scottsdale, Arizona! – ICE and Gov. Agents provide 24/7 security and catering to Illegal Immigrants.” Many asked us if the operation of housing asylum seekers was illegal.
We looked into the circumstances surrounding the use of the facilities, and learned that while families are indeed being temporarily housed in a former Homewood Suites in Scottsdale, Arizona, this is legal, and the facility is no longer officially part of the Hilton hotel chain.
Real estate investment trust Woodbridge Holdings, which owns the former hotel, signed a contract with the nonprofit group Endeavors to manage the space as a temporary holding facility for families seeking asylum until at least Sept. 30, 2021. It is not clear yet what will happen after the contract is up, though one report says Woodbridge Holdings is trying to sell the property. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in turn had contracted with Endeavors to manage the temporary housing.
According to Endeavors, the former hotel in Scottsdale would house asylum-seeking families for no more than 72 hours. The nonprofit would connect the migrants with U.S. sponsors, and give them transportation to bus stations or airports so they could reach their final destination.
While many online claimed that Homewood Suites in Scottsdale was housing the asylum seekers, this particular facility was no longer part of Hilton hotels, which is the larger entity Homewood Suites is associated with.
A Hilton spokesperson told us:
The Homewood Suites Phoenix-Scottsdale located in Scottsdale, Arizona ceased operations under the Homewood Suites by Hilton brand as of December 31, 2020. Any use of the property since this time is not affiliated with Hilton or any of its brands.
Hilton maintains that the hotels in our network should be places of hospitality. Our policy has always been that hotels should not be used for reasons other than their intended purpose. We remain committed to providing a safe, secure and clean environment for all of our guests.
Woodbridge Hospitality has filed for bankruptcy, and since May 2020, has defaulted on mortgage payments. According to reporting from May 2021, the group has been trying to close a sale of the property with a company that wanted to convert it into an apartment complex. Woodbridge’s lawyers said in court that they expect the sale to be finalized by September.
An ICE spokesperson gave us the following statement:
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 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.
The contract with Endeavors uses around $86.9 million in funds, provides support through Sept. 30, and provides 1,239 beds for emergency temporary shelter and other basic needs in facilities across the southwest border for families seeking asylum. It is not clear how much of these funds are going to the facility in Scottsdale. While ICE reportedly will provide access to medical and mental healthcare, cleaning facilities, hygiene kits, clothing, meals, and individual rooms to allow for social distancing, this has not been independently verified.
Traci Gomez, Chief Development and Communications Officer at Endeavors told us that they had been working with the US government to provide assistance after a rapid influx of migrants at the southern border earlier this year. Gomez added that they had experience with “safely operating shelters in a hotel setting in the COVID environment.”
“The work we do is wholly guided by ICE. Migrant families are placed in hotels to test for COVID, quarantined as necessary as well as provided with complete immigration processing that could not be accomplished at overcrowded Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facilities. Families are normally in hotel facilities for 2-3 days as they continue processing,” Gomez said.
Meanwhile, the city of Scottsdale also addressed the protests and the use of the facility in a statement on its official website:
A federal contractor began operating a temporary hotel facility for immigrant families Saturday, May 29. The site has generated substantial public and media attention.
After nearly two weeks of operation, Scottsdale police report that the only calls for service at the location are from those operating it, due to people not associated with the site coming on to the property. Several protests attended by as many as 300 people have occurred, which have been lawful and peaceful.
The question of whether using this hotel for this purpose complies with the city’s zoning ordinance has been raised. This hotel has been rented to provide temporary stays to families, and thus far the city has seen no evidence that indicates this use is not in conformance with the zoning ordinance.
The city has received several hundred calls and emails regarding the facility. Immigration is a federal matter, over which the city of Scottsdale has no responsibility or oversight.
While details about all the families within the facility are not known, newly arrived families in the U.S. are within their legal rights to seek asylum. According to the UNHCR, non-U.S. citizens who are physically present or arrive in the country may apply for asylum.
Given that ICE, the city of Scottsdale, and numerous news reports have confirmed the operating of this temporary facility for asylum seekers, and it is no longer part of Homewood Suites, we rate this claim as a “Mixture.”