A major US defense contractor quietly detained dozens of immigrant children inside a vacant Phoenix office building with dark windows, no kitchen and only a few toilets during three weeks of the Trump administration’s family separation effort, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has learned.
Videos shot by an alarmed neighbor show children dressed in sweatsuits being led – one so young she was carried – into the 3,200-square-foot building in early June. The building is not licensed by Arizona to hold children, and the contractor, MVM Inc., has claimed publicly that it does not operate “shelters or any other type of housing” for children.
Defending the administration’s policy to separate families at the border in a May interview with NPR, White House chief of staff John Kelly promised: “The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.”
Whether or not these children were taken from their parents, that “whatever” for them was the vacant building tucked away in a midtown Phoenix neighborhood. It is not listed among shelters operating through the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement or on the state child care licensing website.
There are new cameras on the building, extra locks on the doors and a paper shredder bin directly outside the building’s side door. Neighbor Lianna Dunlap’s videos show workers pulling up in white vans and leading dazed children into the building. When she asked questions, she said the workers responded with silence or terse answers.
“There’s been times where I drive by and I just start crying because, you know, it’s right behind my house,” said Dunlap, her voice wavering. “I don’t…