Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) wrote to the Department of Homeland Security’s Acting Inspector General on July 9th, requesting an immediate investigation into reports that minor children detained at the U.S. México border were inappropriately held in an office building in Phoenix.
“I write to urgently request an investigation of MVM, Inc’s treatment of migrant children as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) oversight of this company,” said Rep. Gallego.
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, that building was not licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services to provide child care – a possible violation of Arizona state law.
“While the company has acknowledged using the office space in question to temporarily hold migrant children prior to being transported to long-term shelters, the site was not licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services to provide child care – a possible violation of Arizona state law. In addition, the building apparently has darkened windows, limited toilets, and no bedrooms, showers or outdoor play areas,” noted the Congressman.
Rep. Gallego urged the Inspector General to investigate whether any state or local laws or agency policies were violated in holding the children at an ill-equipped office building. He also requested an examination of the standards ICE has established to govern the conditions in which migrant children are held during transport to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters, and information regarding ICE’s oversight of companies charged with housing and transporting these children.
“While the company has acknowledged using the office space in question to temporarily hold migrant children prior to being transported to long-term shelters, the site was not licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services to provide child care – a possible violation of Arizona state law.”
Congressman Ruben Gallego
The Arizona Congressman also asked several pertinent questions in the letter: “Did MVM violate relevant state or local laws or agency policies in holding migrant children at an ill-equipped office building? Were the conditions at the building consistent with the best interests of these children? Are children currently being held in other office buildings or similarly inappropriate settings by MVM or other ICE contractors? What standards has ICE established to govern the conditions in which children are held while being transported to the Office of Refugee Settlement (ORR) shelters? How does ICE monitor compliance? What steps does ICE take to ensure that MVM and other contractors are abiding by state child labor laws? What steps does ICE take to ensure that contractor personnel has appropriate professional qualifications?”
Rep. Gallego also sent a letter to Kevin Marquez, CEO of MVM, Inc., the company that leased the building in question. Rep. Gallego requested additional information from MVM, including the nature of the accommodations, how long the children were held, and whether the company has future plans to house children in this building or at similar locations in the Phoenix area.
In the letter to Marquez, Rep. Gallego expressed grave concern regarding the care of the detained immigrant children.
“I write to urgently request information regarding reports that your company, MVM, Inc., may have inappropriately housed minor children detained at the US-México border in a Phoenix office building.
“MVM has acknowledged using the office in question to temporarily hold migrant children pursuant to a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prior to being transported to long-term shelters.
“The decision to use an ill-equipped office building for this purpose calls into question MVM’s ability to competently care for migrant children and whether your company should be entrusted with this responsibility moving forward. Accordingly, I urge you to respond immediately to the following questions: For how long and under what conditions were migrant children continuously held in the Phoenix office building leased by MVM Inc? Were they ever held there overnight?
What was the nature of the accommodations, including food, recreation, and hygiene, provided to children in your company’s care while staying in the office building? Does MVM intend to use this building to house children again in the future? Does your company operate any similar facilities in the Phoenix area? What are the professional qualifications of the staff members who cared for children at this site?
“According to reports. MVM, Inc., building lease, which you signed on March 2018, does not permit the building to be used for cooking, overnight accommodations, as a child care facility. What were the terms of MVM, Inc., lease on this building and how did your company stay in compliance with the lease and any relevant city or state regulations?
“A spokesperson for the Arizona Dept. of Health Services indicated that a license was likely required under state law to hold migrant children at the building. However, the Arizona Republic reported that ‘MVM said it has consulted with the state and was told it wouldn’t need additional licensing.’ Please provide written records to substantiate this claim.
“You obtained the lease for the building in question approximately one month before the implementation of this Administration’s ‘Zero-Tolerance’ policy, which resulted in the separation of over 2,000 minor children from their parents. Did MVM into the lease in anticipation of the increased demand for its services likely to be created by this new policy.”