Hilton To U.S. Government: Stop Using Our Hotels To House Detained Children At The Border

Hilton says that their hotels shouldn’t be used to house children detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after it was revealed several franchised properties near the U.S.-Mexico border were housing children and their private contractor chaperones prior to deportation.

These properties have hosted over 200 bookings of this nature. Part of the story going viral was an attorney shoved into an elevator and detained at one of these properties when offering legal assistance to the kids. (HT: One Mile at a Time)

Though the property owner defended the bookings, Hilton has now come out against them – saying they’ve been against policy all along and that future reservations have been cancelled.

Marriott, Hilton, and Choice hotels last year refused to serve as detention centers to temporarily house people picked up in immigration raids. However the Marriott Marquis Chicago hosted the Customs and Border Protection annual trade symposium and featuring the acting Secretary of Homeland Security and acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner.

Marriott also voiced no public concerns when the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh was used as a detention facility by the government of Saudi Arabia. In fact it was used for torture and even reportedly murder.

Two years ago it was airlines objecting to being used by the federal government to deport kids though Delta ‘applauded the administration’ for its efforts to unit immigrant children with their parents (sic).

Here’s a challenge for you: If you think an airline or hotel chain ought to decide whom they’ll do business with on the basis of their values, wouldn’t you also have to support bakeries choosing to provide wedding cakes only to heterosexual couples if that’s what’s dictated by their values? Or should businesses only make decisions about whom to serve based on your values?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Oh come off it Gary. Most Americans (and the US courts in many instances) believe that businesses are allowed to serve customers based on their beliefs, *except* when it comes to a subset of protected classes. This system allows people to, say, choose to not serve the unruly customer refusing to wear a mask and making a scene but does not allow them to refuse service to all African Americans.

    And most of us reasonably believe that sexual orientation is a protected class but “is actively holding children against their will” is not a protected class.

    It’s some embarrassing intellectual laziness to pose your question the way you did. Engage with your opponents better arguments, not straw men.

  2. @Josh – it’s intellectual laziness to fall back on what courts rule, or what the law says, in evaluating a moral question

    and it’s intellectually lazy not to take the question seriously: should businesses discriminate based on their owners’ or managers’ beliefs? or only some beliefs? And if just some, which ones are ok to discriminate based on and which aren’t? What is the difference?

    I’m actually not suggesting an answer here, just pointing out that Hilton’s response raises that question and people should think critically in forming an opinion, aware of some of the counterexamples that may make them uncomfortable.

  3. Gary, you should pull this post; it feels of trolling.

    There is a huge difference between a hotel hosting a homsexual event (two consenting adults); housing political detainees (possibly non-consenting, but nonetheless aware of their ‘presumed’ crime and their rights or violation thereof); and a hotel accommodating a child who may have rights, but is unaware of those rights and/or prevented from seeking enforcement of those rights

    Really, can a six year-old, non-English speaking in a foreign country seek adequate legal representation on his/her own behalf? And think about Hilton’s role in this if the child is a victim of sex-trafficking.

  4. 1. Yes I absolutely believe a business has the right to refuse service for any reason including discriminatory. If I want a Blacks only venue, that should be my prerogative. In fact, these already exist under the guise of Safe Spaces.

    2. We need open borders.

  5. I guess Hilton would prefer these illegal children would be housed in tents. It’s a ridiculous issue to begin with. Government should completely abandon the war on drugs and use the resources to secure the border. Likewise, all people who come over illegally should be returned same day. Mexico is responsible for them. End of story. Let Mexico send them back to Honduras or Guatemala if they don’t want to keep them. We have enough American children suffering already. We don’t need more who will burden the school system to a tune of 10K a year, who will grow up to depress wages for American workers, who will provide an oversupply of labor, and who will commit more violent crime than other groups.

  6. False equivalency. Totally false equivalency! Using hotels as “holding cells” until deportation is not the same as refusing to sell a cake to GLBT couple. They are not equivalent, but both are bad practices. Why would a hotel chain want all of their hotels to suffer from one hotel’s bad decisions? Whereas one bakery practicing discriminatory practices only reflects upon that bakery’s owner.

  7. @JohnB – so your issue is that Hilton is a *chain* – if it’s just one bakery “discriminatory practices only reflects upon that bakery’s owner” then it sounds like you’re ok with the bakery owner discriminating but not the hotel franchisee?

  8. If you owned a hotel, would you welcome adults bringing in unrelated children to stay in your hotel rooms when the children — and the parents of the children are obviously not in a position to freely consent to the children sharing private rooms — and who knows what “private” moments — with strangers holding them under threat of coercive violence? Would you welcome children to be left unaccompanied in a hotel room just because “we’re from the government and here to help”?

    Just because a DHS employee passed a background check and may be “following orders” doesn’t exclude the DHS from engaging in abusive conduct toward minors.

  9. Those DHS/DHS-contracted “workers” blocking off the hotel floor seemed to have engaged in physical violence and verbal abuse against a person whom the hotel had not denied from being on premises.

    With such kind of DHS employee behavior being par for the course at the hotels, hotels not wanting this kind of disruptive DHS business sounds like a business doing the right thing. Or are we suppose to complain about businesses banning abusive customers?

  10. It’s Hilton’s business, and they can do what they want as long as it doesn’t discriminate. That said, I agree with them and would be pleased to do more business with them because it aligns with my values. I hope Hilton and the rest do the same with Covidiots and Never Maskers by denying their business and banning them for life.

  11. If hotels cannot be used:, pick one:
    1. Immediate deportation
    2. House the children with the adults

  12. I’m not sure that a lot of people would be good with having their hotel used for mass incarceration during their stay, let alone incarceration for children. Nothing like taking the elevator to breakfast along with a handcuffed group of terrified children.

  13. @JR says: “It’s Hilton’s business, and they can do what they want as long as it doesn’t discriminate. ”

    JR: the word discriminate does not mean what you think it means. Discriminate means make distinctions among. Which is what Hilton is doing in this case, saying some guests are not welcome to stay at their hotel while others are. That is discriminating. Which may or may not be wrong, illegal or bad depending on how they are discriminating, which is the question Gary is raising.

  14. Josh says: “Most Americans (and the US courts in many instances) believe that businesses are allowed to serve customers based on their beliefs, *except* when it comes to a subset of protected classes.”

    @Josh: In the view you have described, the owner of an inn or restaurant or other business that holds itself out as serving the public has the right to choose who to serve and who to bar because the inn is their property. And therefore the Civil Rights Acts are a taking of that right away from the owner, in the interest of a higher good.

    For well over 500 years, the “right” to serve the public has been accompanied by an obligation to serve everyone unless there is good reason not to. Therefore the Civil Rights Acts were not a taking of rights in the name of a higher good; they were a specification (you could even say a reiteration) that race is not a good reason to deny service.

    This article illuminates the topic quite well:


  15. “If you think an airline or hotel chain ought to decide whom they’ll do business with on the basis of their values, wouldn’t you also have to support bakeries choosing to provide wedding cakes only to heterosexual couples if that’s what’s dictated by their values?” – probably best to stick to writing about travel. Its clear you don’t understand constitutional law if you can’t tell what the difference is between the two scenarios.

  16. Okay, I will play.
    A baker descriminating against LGBT people is descriminating against them for something that they could not choose, their sexual orientation.
    Hilton discriminating against the government for doing something that they have chosen to do is very different. The government made a choice and needs to accept the consequences.
    This is not a question of values.

  17. @GUWonder while I agree with your overall point, how on earth can you expect all your ID burdens be enforced?

  18. If you’re calling it a moral question, I shudder to think that your morals tell you that snatching kids away from their families and separating them is a good thing.

  19. My last time here. As a member of the LGBT community, I find this comparison to be completely reprehensible.

  20. They are just playing to their local audience. If they said anything negative about the use of the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh for holding, intimidating and torturing people, you can bet they would no longer be welcome to operate in the Kingdom of Darkness. Plus, all the Saudis would be instructed to no longer stay at that hotel chain when they are travelling. In addition, there goes the potential for investment from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund!

  21. SeanNY2,

    Hilton’s desire to refuse this DHS business is not illegal discrimination, and that is what matters.

    Personally, I am eager to see DHS broken up into its pre-2002 constituent parts and those parts distributed back under control of the pre-2002 cabinet portfolios.

  22. @Jason – genuinely wondering why you think it’s ‘reprehensible’ to wrestle with an ethical conundrum? Isn’t this how we struggle through views and figure out what we think is right? You do realize I’m not making an argument here for one position or another? Certainly didn’t intend to trigger you.

  23. CR,

    What ID burdens?

    Even at hotels that may skip checking registered guest ID, some hotels do block guests/visitors from hotel room use because of concerns about entrants’ engagement in questionable human trafficking, prostitution, child abuse, drug activity and so on.

    If I was working a hotel which had a ban on hosting DHS parties with DHS-held prisoners but happened to checked no ID, I have little doubt that at least some such hotel room use attempts by DHS could be frustrated by me.

    Wasn’t it Voltaire who indicated that “perfect is the enemy of good? Perfection isn’t needed for good to be done to frustrate DHS efforts to use American hotels as unauthorized prison/detention facilities.

  24. Gary,

    Is there an ethical conundrum for you when a hotel says it refuses to do business with those it suspects to be engaged in the reprehensible business of sexual exploitation and related trafficking of minors? Or do you think hotels should just welcome any and all activity and be free agents in some libertarian utopia/dystopia where it’s laissez-faire for that too?

    I find there to be no ethnical conundrum in a hotel refusing to do business with state or non-state actors engaged in unethical and arguably illegal activity, especially when it’s a given that hotels’ discrimination against DHS behavior of sorts is not illegal.

  25. @Bill says: “Its clear you don’t understand constitutional law if you can’t tell what the difference is between the two scenarios.”

    Garry is asking the question what do you think? Not what the constitution requires. If you think people shouldn’t walk around carrying firearms in public, does that mean you don’t understand the constitution?

    And so far courts have not weighed in on this question of whether hotels can bar the DHS in the conduct of their lawfully prescribed (by congress) activities. But they have weighed in and said it was an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of the baker (“prohibiting the free exercise” of his religion) to try to force him to bake the cake in question.

    Is that the difference you were referring to?

  26. @GUWonder says: “Is there an ethical conundrum for you when a hotel says it refuses to do business with those it suspects to be engaged in the reprehensible business of sexual exploitation and related trafficking of minors?”

    That’s not a conundrum at all. One of the most ancient rights of inkeepers is the right to bar criminals, especially if they are actively engaged in criminal activities.

    The conundrum arises when the activity is actually the law of the United States of America, passed by the Legislative branch, executed by the Executive branch pursuant to a warrant obtained from the Judicial branch. Then we have a conundrum: should individuals decide for themselves whether to bar the activity they don’t like and admit the activity they do, or should they feel somehow constrained to serve everyone who isn’t breaking the law or disturbing the peace? That’s the question Gary is asking. So far only one commenter even tried to address the question.

  27. You rather move those kids from lodge back to cage?
    They are not going anywhere, either lodge or cage.
    Why you must choose a hard way?

  28. Agree with Jason. You chose to use that example of the bakery, you could have come up with a more relevant example. Eg something relevant to hospitality: hotels that house homeless people, (or hotels housing large numbers of rowdy college students or a rowdy construction crew or a rowdy children’s sports jamboree, etc). Of course many people would feel uncomfortable finding out that some of the ‘guests’ are basically incarcerated children.

  29. SeanNYforTrumpImprisoningToddlersToo,

    There is no ethical conundrum in an American hotel owner/operator/brand manager not wanting to do business with government authorities in such a way as to have their facilities converted into a detention center/prison for children or anyone else even under color of law.

    The American Revolution was built upon not only an opposition to taxation without representation but also upon a very intense opposition to government forces occupying inns and other quarters against the wishes of the owners. 😉

    There is a long standing American tradition of innkeepers being opposed to being taken over by government forces when not wanting that kind of business.

  30. Political correctness run amuck! Regardless of your views on immigration (I personally feel the US is right to send people back that come into the country illegally) I’m willing to bet the hotel room is nicer than the living conditions where these kids came from. Wouldn’t shock me if they hate to leave!

    Of course everyone (and every company) is so afraid of offending people they step all over themselves to not do anything, even if legit, human and an appropriate business decision, that may get some of the professional protesters stirred up.

  31. It’s Trump Administration political incorrectness run amok that resulted in this situation being so bad for so many children.

    The Trump Administration wanted to exploit these children too and use them as props to: send a scary message to some; and, more importantly for Trump, a photo op and other messaging to appeal to his most base, rabid base of supporters.

    Trump and his DHS have exploited these suspected illegal immigrant kids as a way to show Trump’s own followers that he’s going to build an anti-immigrant wall even if it means awful and awfully unnecessary administrative arrests and detentions of children and using them for an anti-immigrant PR campaign to support Trump’s own re-election at all costs.

  32. A very intellectually dishonest post there Gary. But it looks like you accomplished your goal of attracting lots of racist xenophobes to pile into the comments section so you could get more clicks.

  33. This begs the real question. Why are we even housing ILLEGALS regardless of their age? If they violate our laws and come in, as soon as they are caught, they should be put in a bus, taken back to the nearest border crossing and expelled from the our country immediately. Once we do that, the “repeaters” will rapidly diminish and the massive amount of money being made off them for sneaking them in will dry out. Come in legally or be deplored immediately!!

  34. @Farnorthtrader

    If you claim that LGBT people shouldn’t be discriminated against because they didn’t choose their sexual orientations, what about pedophiles or zoophiles? Is the alleged lack of choice the relevant issue? Any private business should be allowed to refuse service to the DHS and those in its care, but why shouldn’t also apply to other would-be patrons? To force a business to provide a service is coercion akin to slavery (I realize this is not how the laws apply to public accommodations).

  35. cargocult,

    Whether you like it or not, hotel owners are lawfully entitled to discriminate against DHS trying to quarter DHS forces and prisoners since it’s distinct from discrimination on the basis of sex/sexual identity.

    Not happy about the rule of law in the US and LGTBQ being a legally-protected class, then why not move to Hungary or Russia or any other country where Trump has his ideological allies running the show?

  36. @GUWonder

    Obama deported more than any President and put children in custody (you would call that cages)
    Released terrorists back to their country, gave millions of taxpayer dollars to Iran, put two of the most liberal women on the Supreme Court and after their (and his) opinion, says “the American people have spoken.” Obama was (is) no patriot.
    The American people were asleep. Never again.
    Taylor Swift was right. Haters are gonna hate. Wake up, GUWonder ! Compared to Obama, Trump has done nothing but good for this country. Washington, Lincoln, Reagan and now Trump are patriots who love this country. Can’t say that about Barry Sotero or whatever his name is.
    It’s government of the people, by the people and for the (American) people. And when LEGAL immigrants of other nations become LEGAL citizens, then they are the American people also. And then receive it’s benefits. Far too many of our uncles and grandparents shed blood and gave their lives for this country. Americans (on their own dime ! ) can give where they want to give. But to poop off the wealth and benefits of a free society (to people and countries…who HATE US) is a slap in the face to our retirees and elderly.

  37. President Obama, like both Bush Presidents and Reagan, were dedicated patriots in office who would ultimately put the country themselves and knew a thing or two about national leadership. As President, Trump is nothing but a self-dealing narcissist whose dedication is to his petty goals of getting attention and winning re-election at all costs.

    Obama is a better man and was a better POTUS now than the sleazy con-artist of a “reality” showman from NY that is the current US President. Trump’s days of conning America — and delivering on Putin’s anti-American fantasies — cannot come to an end soon enough.

  38. President Obama, like both Bush Presidents and Reagan, were dedicated patriots in office who would ultimately put the country before themselves and knew a thing or two about national leadership. That isn’t true about Trump

  39. @Cargocult – way to make the classic right wing “slippery slope” argument – worked so well in suggesting that if gay people had the right to marry, surely polygamy, bestiality, etc. would run amok in the US. Didn’t quite happen that way did it.

  40. @GUWonder

    That you find special laws for protected classes to be an acceptable version of “rule of law” is telling. I think it is you who would find more illiberal systems of government more pleasant. You probably consider the removal of language barring discrimination according to “race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin” from the California constitution to be “progress.”


    How is that a slippery slope argument? Did I say I opposed gays marrying? I have no problem with homosexual marriage itself. It is unfortunate that the government has authority over such matters at all, but given the state of government, this was the easiest route to take to achieve it. My point about barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation being something one cannot choose is that it would imply that all sorts of other inclinations should also have such protections (do you think child molesters are eagerly choosing such a lifestyle?). It is not obvious to me that polygamy should be banned, though I see how it could be socially destabilizing if practiced by a significant portion of society. Bestiality is unacceptable as an animal cannot consent to such relations. (Of course, killing and eating animals shouldn’t be acceptable, either, and if any climate activist eats meat, he is a hypocrite and should kindly shut the front door.) Enforcement of laws for protected classes is hardly equal protection under the law. The government shouldn’t be picking and choosing classes for protection. Laws must apply to all individuals as such. As abhorrent as I might find negative discrimination according to race or sexual orientation, I find more abhorrent the idea that the state can force a citizen to act against his will to serve another. Of course, socialists have no problem with that since they explicitly advocate for mutual slavery. Oh, and congratulations on making a comment without mentioning Trump.

  41. A lot of people do not seem to realize that Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 U.S. ___ (2018) was decided in favor of the bakeshop. See also Hobby Lobby. So, now is a large corporation like Hilton also a “person” to the extent that it is allowed to make moral (whose — management, board, shareholders) choices independent of its duty to shareholders to make $?

  42. @Gary Leff Isn’t it interesting that generally speaking, conservatives and libertarians (which I assume you are) are the ones open to debate and understand nuance while many liberals refuse to even enter into discourse, but resort to self-righteous condemnation and character shaming? These liberals are the supposed tolerant, intelligent ones.

    Some more food for thought, huh?

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