The Scottsdale hotel converted into a migrant shelter seemingly overnight several weeks ago still has a working number – and the operator on the other end answers for “The Suites.” The facility has been closed to the public since May 24 to award short-term, emergency lodging to migrant families that ICE classified as “political asylum refugees.”
In our first call placed to the facility, the automated attendant didn’t directly identify the name of the building. Instead, the automated attendant said that we’d reached “the hotel” and could dial an extension or wait for an operator.
A woman answered, identifying the facility as “Suites on Scottsdale.” We asked if the facility was still the Homewood Suites.
“No ma’am, it is not. It is the Suites on Scottsdale,” said the operator.
We then placed a second call to the facility, but the operator never answered – and the mailbox was full.
It is unclear whether the facility is still using software associated with Homewood Suites, and if the current usage of the facility and systems is in line with the franchise agreement and Scottsdale zoning codes.
As AZ Free News reported, the facility is currently being operated by Family Endeavors, an organization awarded a no-bid contract by the Biden Administration shortly after the border crisis erupted.
The current website for the facility identifies it as the “Suites on Scottsdale.” All of the links for contacting the facility and booking a reservation were intact, at the time of this report. However, all of the rooms were listed as “Not Available” for the rest of the year.
In addition to contact information directly related to the Suites on Scottsdale, the site includes contact information for Ledgestone Hospitality.
ICE spokespersons didn’t tell AZ Free News why the surrounding communities weren’t given advance notice of the shelter being established. They also didn’t answer our question regarding how many other similar migrant hotels were established in the area. However, ICE did tell Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) that they’d established similar shelters in Chandler and Phoenix.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to email@example.com.
Arizona’s wealthiest town has gained national attention over the last week, after it was discovered that a former hotel was covertly transformed into a migrant safe house almost overnight. A former Homewood Suites in Scottsdale has been converted to a makeshift migrant shelter closed to the public since May 24.
ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have contracted “Family Endeavors” through September 30 to house over 1,200 migrants at a time in Arizona and Texas. They paid the company $86.9 million in a no-bid contract lasting 6 and a half months for a multi-state contract. Each bed totals over $352 daily. The ICE contract repeated that the “Government would be seriously injured” had they not awarded this no-bid contract to Family Endeavors to handle the migrant influx – an “unusual and compelling urgency,” as they described it. The contract also noted that the expected migrant influx would be the highest seen in over 20 years.
The contract didn’t speculate as to why this sudden, emergency-level influx was occurring.
One of the organization’s officials was reportedly on the Biden transition team: former ICE official Andrew Lorenzen-Strait. Ahead of the influx characterized as an “unusual and compelling urgency,” Family Endeavors announced on Inauguration Day that Lorenzen-Strait would become their government liaison as senior director for migrant services and federal affairs.
Soon after the $86.9 million contract, Family Endeavors received the $530 million no-bid contract for “emergency intake” and long-term care of migrant children.
Family Endeavors’ website describes the organization as assisting “vulnerable people in crisis” like veterans, disaster victims, the homeless, and migrants.
Family Endeavors wouldn’t answer questions from AZ Free News concerning whether they felt communities were owed an advance warning prior to sheltering migrants there. The organization directed AZ Free News to speak with ICE for further inquiries.
“We can confirm that DHS [Department of Homeland Security] has contracted with Endeavors to provide critical services to migrant families, which is a continuation of services we have delivered to the migrant population since 2012,” wrote the Family Endeavors spokespersons.
Officers at the shelter site shared that they were contracted with Law Enforcement Specialists (LES), a law enforcement contract service company. They also informed reporters that ICE and various state agencies were monitoring the hotel.
ICE spokespersons also didn’t answer questions from AZ Free News concerning why surrounding communities weren’t given advance notice of the shelter, why local officials lack authority to decline sheltering migrants, or if there were any other similar shelters currently or soon to be operating out of Scottsdale or the surrounding areas. Instead, they reiterated the same information given to other reporters concerning the holding times, COVID-19 testing protocols, and the quality and content of care of migrants.
According to court documents concerning a legal battle between the property lender and the borrower, the plaintiffs in the case, Wilmington Trust, note that the defendant and borrower, Woodbridge Hospitality, misleadingly referred to the ICE/DHS contract as “private lodging” rather than the reality of its current usage – an immigrant detention center. Wilmington Trust claimed that they issued the loan to Woodbridge Hospitality on the condition that the facility would be secured by rents, income, and underlying value of a Homewood Suites by a Hilton branded first-class hotel.
On Tuesday, the city of Scottsdale issued a press release explaining that they’d been notified last Friday about ICE’s plan to establish a migrant shelter at the Homewood Suites the next day. ICE officials reportedly told city officials that the hotel would serve as house intact families seeking political asylum. ICE assured the city that a “vast majority” of those migrants would travel outside of Arizona after processing, which would be short-term: 72 hours or less, on average. ICE also assured the city that these migrants would be tested for COVID-19 and receive health assessments.
“Scottsdale has no current authority to prevent the hotel from being rented for these immigrant families,” read the press release. “Immigration is a federal matter, over which the city of Scottsdale has no responsibility or oversight.”
The city officials told concerned citizens to contact their federal government representatives, and listed Representative David Schweikert (R-AZ-06), Senators Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and President Joe Biden.
Links to federal leaders weren’t enough for Scottsdale’s citizenry. On Wednesday, over 600 protesters showed up at the pop-up Paradise Valley migrant shelter. Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega reprimanded the protestors and concerned citizens in an email.
“Feds say they are recognized, asylum seekers, not illegal border crossers, [they are] COVID tested and to be accountable to ICE. Feds control the closed-use property. They are exhausted now,” wrote Ortega. “‘Remember you were once an alien.’ Anyone living, working, or visiting Scottsdale will be treated with respect and dignity[.]”
Schweikert sent a letter to ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson, questioning how ICE planned on providing proper social services, security, boundaries, and first responder resources for the facility. Schweikert asserted that the area didn’t support a facility, logistically.
“I am concerned that this location lacks even the most basic resources needed for a migrant detention facility. I am also concerned about the effect this facility will have on the surrounding community,” wrote Schweikert. “Finally, and perhaps most troublingly, I am concerned that your agency made the decision to use this facility as a migrant detention center without properly consulting with the surrounding community.”
Neither Kelly or Sinema published any statements or remarks on the matter. However, both senators heavily criticized Biden’s handling of the border crisis.
The President hasn’t issued any statements, either; nor has White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on his behalf.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich submitted a letter as well.
“The President is using Arizona as an experiment with his reckless border policies,” wrote Brnovich. “All of us will pay the price, not only with our tax dollars, but also with our national security, and the safety of our families.”
At least one state-level representative has taken action, too. State Representative Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) also submitted a letter to Johnson questioning why ICE would locate a migrant detention center near a public school and suburban neighborhood.
Today I sent a letter to the acting director at @ICEgov to get answers to questions I have about a migrant detention facility located in the suburbs near a public school and neighborhood. I cc’d other local officials on the letter, hoping to get all of our questions answered. pic.twitter.com/FfEBcicWSo
Concern for the quality of these migrant facilities – especially for children at the ages most vulnerable for trafficking – has been a long-time issue for Arizona legislators. Back in 2016, whistleblowers revealed that unaccompanied migrant children were vulnerable to coyotes. State legislators attempted to introduce legislation requiring that refugee facilities be state-licensed and inspected monthly; it died in chamber.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Wednesday, not only did hundreds of protesters let their concerns about the federal government’s plan to convert a Scottsdale hotel into a migrant detention center be known, but Arizona’s Attorney General did as well.
A crowd of approximately 600 protesters turned out in front of the former Homewood Suites hotel which is just one of many properties included in an $80 million-plus contract Endeavors has with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The hotel-turned detention center is near residential and commercial properties as well as a high school.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a letter to the hotel’s lender and borrower expressing “grave concerns about whether a detention facility is an appropriate and legal use” of the property.
“I am further writing to express public safety concerns about the decision to establish this 1,200-person detention facility at the hotel property,” the Attorney General wrote.
Brnovich shares the concerns of the community that there is no guarantee the migrants will not be released into the upscale community which has little access to social services.
The appropriateness of placing a detention center in the middle of town is not the only issue. The Arizona Attorney General noted in his letter that even the “lender, who stands to potentially receive some of the revenues from this contract, has itself voiced concerns that this dramatic change in use would require rezoning the property or at a minimum obtaining a variance.”
Currently the case is in federal court. However, Alexander Kolodin, a well known Republican attorney, told the AZ Free News, that he hopes someone will challenge the ICE decision in state court on federalism and separation of powers grounds. “The Arizona Supreme Court would love to sink their teeth into this one.”
Attorney General letter:
Brian C. Lake
David M. Neff
Perkins Coie LLP
2901 North Central Avenue, Suite 2000
Phoenix, Arizona 85012-2788
Philip R. Rudd
Sacks Tierney P.A.
4250 North Drinkwater Blvd., 4th Floor
Scottsdale, Arizona 85251-3693
I understand that you represent the lender and borrower for a property at North Scottsdale Road and East Mountain View Road in Scottsdale (the “Hotel Property”), which is currently the subject of a dispute over being potentially converted into an under 72-hour ICE detention facility for housing up to 1,200 adult and minor migrants.
I am writing to express grave concerns about whether a detention facility is an appropriate and Legal use of the Hotel Property, particularly in light of information that my office recently learned through a court-ordered deposition of the Deputy Director of the ICE Phoenix Field Office, Albert Carter. I am further writing to express public safety concerns about the decision to establish this 1,200-person detention facility at the Hotel Property. The root causes of the current crisis are problems of the Biden Administration’s own making, including policies that have administratively and intentionally crippled ICE’s important law enforcement mission and incentivized illegal immigration. While everyone rightly expects that migrants should be treated humanely, a new detention facility at the Hotel Property should not be established.
First, regardless of how well-intentioned everyone involved is detention facilities inherently carry some risk that one or more individuals who pose a public safety threat are going to be housed there and potentially leave the premises. As outlined in the lender’s Verified Complaint:
The ICE/DHS Contract provides that the hotel on the Property will cease being operated as a hotel and will instead be operated as an ICE/DHS detention center for immigrant families being held in ICE custody who are awaiting deportation, continued custody, or release determinations by ICE, DHS or the Department of Justice.
The ICE/DHS Contract leaves no doubt that the Property will in fact be operated as an ICE detention center, securing and holding all of the individuals who stay there in government custody at all times, day and night. For example, the ICE/DHS Contract states that “[a]all residents will be in the legal custody of ICE, therefore they can only be released at the direction of ICE” (id. at 60, § 2), and “[a]t all times, individuals comprising family units shall remain in the legal custody office, irrespective of residential services provided by Service Provider.” Id. at 62, § 5(a)(iii), (xi). The ICE/DHS Contract also requires that those providing services at the Prope11y “shall structure all programs and implement strategies designed to ensure residents remain within the residential setting to include, if necessary, consequences for depa11ing without authorization.” Id. at 62, § 5(a)(xi).”
This is consistent with the deposition testimony of Director Carter, who testified that ICE “detention facilities are broken down in multiple ways for immigration purposes. There is an over 72-hour facility where individuals are housed for longer term. But there are also under 72- hour facilities that are generally managed through intergovernmental service agreements that would also be included.” Mr. Carter’s testimony confirms that what is being established is a type of detention facility, not a hotel.
Mr. Carter also provided examples of some of the under 72-hour facilities in Arizona including facilities managed by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, La Paz County Sheriff’s Office, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, and the San Luis Detention Center.4 While there was one hotel-the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Phoenix/Chandler-according to the ICE detention data, the average length of stay was only 2 days, and only 2 detainees were being housed there, compared to up to 1,200 contemplated for the Hotel Property.
Second, there is no guarantee that housing 1,200 detainees in this area would not result in some of them being released into the community. ICE has adopted irresponsible “enforcement priorities” that administratively repeal almost all ICE enforcement. Those “enforcement priorities” notably do not include those who have previously been convicted of what the Biden Administration deems insufficiently serious crimes or those who have been charged but not convicted of a crime. Given this, if the prime contractor is unable to place particular detainees, it is foreseeable that ICE could simply release the detainee into the community because they do not fall within the Biden Administration’s extremely narrow “enforcement priorities.”
The State of Arizona and State of Montana recently filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Arizona challenging these enforcement priorities as arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law. The potential release of individuals from the detention facility at the Hotel Prope1ty only illustrates why the enforcement priorities are bad policy that is harmful to public safety. See Arizona and Montana v. Department of Homeland Security, No. 21-186 (D. Ariz.).
Third, based on the limited information available, this does not appear to be a good location for a 1,200-person detention facility in any event, and may well or at least should require a significant additional study by the local government before such a drastic change is implemented. The Hotel Property is adjacent to an apartment complex and near a senior living facility. It is also across the street from a residential neighborhood and another apartment complex. It is less than a block from a high school, less than one mile from a preschool, and less than two miles from a middle school.
The lender, who stands to potentially receive some of the revenues from this contract, has itself voiced concerns that this dramatic use change would require rezoning the property or at a minimum obtaining a variance. The Verified Complaint alleges:
On information and belief, using the Prope1ty in the manner stated in the ICE/DHS Contract would not be in compliance with existing City of Scottsdale zoning ordinances and/or other restrictive covenants governing the Property, and would therefore require a change to, or waiver or exemption from, the existing zoning ordinances and use permits, or would result in a violation of the existing zoning ordinances and use permits.
The Lender’s application for a temporary restraining order, similarly stated:
It is also very likely that Borrower’s conduct in agreeing to the ICE/DHS Contract and preparing to perform it violated the provisions in the Loan Agreement and Deed of Trust prohibiting Borrower from doing anything at the Prope1ty that might not comply with existing zoning ordinances and prohibiting Borrower from attempting to change the zoning ordinances or obtain an exception or variance from them. See Loan Agreement§ 5.18; Deed of Trust§ 3. Borrower has represented that a zoning change from the City of Scottsdale will be needed to convert the hotel on the Property into condominiums (and has not yet been obtained). In that case, it seems unlikely that the City of Scottsdale would allow the Property to change its use from a hotel to an ICE detention center without requiring even more drastic zoning changes or variances.
Fourth, despite obvious potential impacts from the establishment of the detention facility to the “human environment,” 42 U.S.C. §4332(C), DHS has not conducted any of the necessary environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) to study such impacts. See, e.g., Hanly v. Mitchell, 460 F.2d 640, 647 (2d Cir. 1972) (NEPA “must be construed to include protection of the quality of life for city residents. Noise, traffic, overburdened mass transportation systems, crime, congestion, and even availability of drugs all affect the urban ‘environment.”‘ (cleaned up)). Absent any such compliance efforts, the contract with DHS is likely invalid as a matter of law.
This violation of NEPA is part of a broader pattern of DHS failing to comply with NEPA concerning immigration and border control policies. Because of these other violations, I have filed suit against OHS and its officials in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. See Arizona v. 1\Mayorkas, No. 21-617 (D. Ariz. 2021).
For all of these reasons, I urge you not to go forward with converting the Hotel Property into a 1,200-person detention facility.
Scottsdale residents intend to protest at the site again Friday evening.
For the last 15 years I’ve protected Arizonans and Americans from dangerous criminals – the past eight working for the United States Attorney’s Office securing the southwest border. I’ve seen how decisions made in the halls of power – whether it be Washington, D.C., or Phoenix – play out on the ground. When our leaders put politics and political correctness before safety and security, there are real life consequences.
I know this because I’ve had face-to-face conversations with cartel members and listened to wiretaps on their phones. I’ve investigated them for drug trafficking, human smuggling, murders and mutilations. That was my job. I was a border security section chief for the District of Arizona.
In March, the flood of immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally was 67% higher than at the same time in 2019, when the United States last experienced a surge of immigrants at the border. According to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, “We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.” Our southern border is not secure.
This is a crisis. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has declared a state of emergency in several counties and deployed the National Guard. And it is a crisis that is entirely President Joe Biden’s making. Every action by this administration sends a direct signal to bad actors who control the flow of immigrants and drugs across the border.
Biden’s public safety failure
The media frenzy surrounding Biden’s border crisis has served to cover up another truly frightening aspect of this administration’s immigration policy: the release of criminals from jails and prisons. On Inauguration Day, the Department of Homeland Security issued an immediate 100-day pause on certain deportations.
With few exceptions, individuals who were going to be deported and were just awaiting their complimentary flight (or walk) back to their home countries would no longer be removed. The immediate consequence was that convicted felons who did not have permission to be in the United States were released from prisons after their sentences and let onto the streets.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton successfully sued Washington and obtained a nationwide temporary restraining order preventing DHS from enforcing the 100-day moratorium. But the Biden administration simply issued replacement guidance, which had the same effect. Immigration and Customs Enforcement got the message – individuals who do not meet certain enforcement priorities should not be removed from the country. And unlike the 100-day pause, this new guidance has no expiration date.
The Biden administration’s enforcement priorities are so narrow that they exclude many violent offenders. Take, for example, the “public safety” priority. It allows ICE to remove individuals who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony.” Sounds serious, right? But what if I told you that some murder convictions do not qualify as aggravated felonies. To put it in perspective, at least one of the killing offenses for which former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted would not qualify.
Violent offenders on the street
I prosecuted a Honduran in 2014 who had been denied asylum but returned to the United States and got into an altercation during which he hit his victim in the head with a metal bar, fracturing his skull. The resulting aggravated assault conviction was not an aggravated felony.
And yet, this is the porous metric DHS has decided to use when determining whether our community’s public safety is a priority. Tragedy will undoubtedly flow from this awful choice, and it is not just those who reside in close proximity to the border who will be affected. President Biden, it’s time to make public safety a real priority.
Lacy Cooper was the border security section chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona. She served 15 years as both a county and federal prosecutor targeting violent offenders, gang members, cartels and terrorists. She is now Of Counsel with the law firm of Schmitt Schneck Even & Williams. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.