MCALLEN, Texas – The Mexican American Legislative Caucus has called for a congressional investigation into what it says was the unlawful detention of immigrant families in South Texas.

Late last week, children and families seeking asylum were seen through the windows of the Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel in McAllen, calling out for help after being detained without due process.

The families were later moved to an unknown location, according to news reports. This operation was enforced in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and contracted entities under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

On July 24, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the detained children facing imminent expulsion.

State Rep. Rafael Anchía, chairman of MALC, said the Trump administration should stop the illegal detention of children and families. He said MALC demands transparency from DHS surrounding what the group believes is an unconstitutional operation.

“The actions by the federal government to illegally hide and detain children and families in South Texas are unconscionable, illegal, and a clear abuse of power by this administration,” Anchía said.

“The intentional expulsion of asylum-seekers without a paper trail or access to an attorney by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are at minimum illegal and a human rights violation and at most, an inhumane force of power with virtually no transparency during a global pandemic and public health crisis.”

Anchía added: “We urge Congress to use their authority to open an investigation into the tactics used by the Department of Homeland Security that held asylum-seekers hostage in hotels without constitutional due process and deported them without legal counsel.”

The Texas Border Coalition is also concerned about immigrant children being held in South Texas hotels without due process.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., chairs TBC.

“The Texas Border Coalition is pleased that the Trump Administration is finally meeting its moral and legal obligation to protect immigrant children as young as one year of age by moving them out of hotel facilities and returning them to Office of Refugee and Resettlement custody, which they should have done in the first place,” Treviño said.

“These children have endured extreme physical and emotional stress, and prolonged detention in hotel facilities with little to no access to education, recreation or socialization only caused further trauma.”

Treviño added: “It is high time Congress and the Texas Legislature conduct a full investigation into the detention of immigrant children and ensure we advance policies that safeguard the health and safety of children while their asylum cases are being resolved.”

Rio Grande Guardian editor Steve Taylor hosted a Zoom conversation with TBC vice chairman LeRoy Cavazos and McAllen-based immigration attorney Alex Martinez on the issue. Here is the conversation:

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows migrants peaking out of the window of the fourth floor of a Hampton Inn in McAllen, Texas on Thursday July 23, 2020. (Photo: Dominic Anthony Walsh/Texas Public Radio)

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