Hundreds of people waving American flags gathered to protest the federal government’s immigration policy in front of a hotel in central Scottsdale that is now operating as a short-term migrant holding facility for families seeking asylum.
The former Homewood Suites hotel at Scottsdale and Mountain View roads, which is owned by real estate investment trust Woodbridge Hospitality, has signed an agreement with Endeavors, a nonprofit contracted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the agreement, Endeavors will manage the property until Sept. 30.
Endeavors spokesperson Ben Miranda said the facility will house families who will stay at the property for no more than 72 hours. The nonprofit will connect the migrants with sponsors in the U.S. and provide them with transportation to the bus station or airport so they can reach their final destination, he said.
Scottsdale officials released a statement on Monday, saying ICE had informed the city that the facility would start housing migrants on Friday, one day before the operation started.
“Scottsdale has no current authority to prevent the hotel from being rented for these immigrant families. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the contractor who will operate the facility have provided assurances that they will be able to address any operational concerns that may arise,” the city’s statement read.
Protest organizer: This is about the Biden immigration agenda
Millie MacMillan, 24, from Paradise Valley, said she organized the protest by inviting her friends and neighbors, who helped spread the word. It was a grassroots effort in which she and other protesters made and printed signs themselves, she said. Riders USA, a nonprofit that advocates against immigration, also posted on Facebook that it was organizing the rally.
“I’m worried that Biden’s agenda of inviting illegals in order to have them vote Democrat later when they become citizens,” she said. “I worry that’s going to have a horrible effect on America and Americans because they don’t have the same values, they don’t know the constitution and they don’t believe in the Second Amendment.”
The hotel is not housing immigrants who are in the United States against the law. Migrants arriving at the border have the right to request asylum without being criminalized.
“I think in taxpayers’ minds, they are illegal immigrants. Biden and Harris may be trying to change the definition of what that means (seeking asylum) in order to gain Democrat votes,” MacMillan said.
The U.S. policy on seeking asylum has not changed, although in February the Biden administration announced most migrants seeking to enter the U.S. at the border with Mexico will be turned away, but also that it would begin allowing in migrants who sought asylum under the Trump administration but were forced to wait in Mexico as they awaited a hearing before a judge.
Another protester, Deb Birtell, said her main concern is the crisis at the border leading to sex trafficking.
“We’re the most generous country in the world when it comes to refugees, but these children and these families are being set up to being sex trafficked,” she said. “They don’t know our language, they don’t know our culture and they are being brought in by the tens of thousands only to be set up for failure.”
There is another protest scheduled to happen on Friday evening in front of the hotel.
Counterprotester: ‘We are here to show support to the people inside’
A group of six women across the street from the protest stood out as they held signs that read, “No human being is illegal” and “Welcome refugees.”
“I don’t want to be associated with them (the protesters) and that’s why I’m here because I don’t want people to think that everybody in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley are like them,” Dr. Yara Vargas of Scottsdale said. “We are not protesting, despite of what they may say. We are actually here to show support to the people inside.”
Allison Seigel, who lives south of Scottsdale, said she heard about the protest and felt there should be people in front of the hotel who hold a different point of view.
“I can’t understand why they are protesting having families housed in a safe place while they wait to be reunited with people here that are sponsoring them or organizations that are sponsoring them,” she said.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or at 480-267-4703. Follow her on Twitter @renataclo.
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