Bused-in migrant families being housed in DC quarantine hotel

Migrant ffamilies bused into Washington, DC, from border states are being housed in a hotel used for quarantining COVID-19 patients.

Washington has resorted to housing migrant families in the Hampton Inn in the NoMa neighborhood to try and accommodate an influx of migrants bused in from border states. Advocates for the migrants have decried the solution as inhumane because the hotel staff, most of whom only speak English, are unable to accommodate them, according to DCist. COVID-19 restrictions also limit the migrants’ freedom within the building itself, leading to a slew of complaints.

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Although the district insists the housing is only a temporary solution, migrants and their lawyers are skeptical.

“The city promotes the narrative that they’re only here temporarily,” said Mariel Vallano, a District of Columbia Public Schools teacher with close contact with the migrants. “However, the families are staying. … They have no contacts in the United States, and they have nowhere else to go.”

Those responsible for the housing of migrants in the hotel, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the DC Department of Human Services, refused repeated requests from DCist for comment. However, in a Monday press conference, Bowser stressed that a wider, federal solution is needed for a “broken immigration system” and that her city alone is not equipped to handle it. She assured reporters that migrants are being given humane treatment and shelter.

Families housed in the hotel receive a room with three meals a day, but lawyers say this isn’t enough. Difficulties communicating with the hotel staff and overcrowding mean that other resources are hard to come by. Anonymous migrants speaking with DCist said they are relegated to sitting around watching TV for most of the day. Third-party organizations provide the families with diapers, milk, baby supplies, clothes, and toys for children.

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“The families and the DHS staff would call me … 50 to 100 times a day because there are so many families and because the staff at that time was completely unable to communicate with them with no bilingual support,” Vallano said.

Advocates have called for the migrants to be sent to family shelters instead, which are designed to be much more accommodating. These facilities contain game rooms, common areas, and courtyards. Freedom of movement is also given priority in these spaces.

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