Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

Defense Contractor's Use of Vacant Office Building to House Children Underscores 'Perverse Secrecy' of Trump Immigration Policy

"This thing where the government took children from their parents at the border? It's more horrific than we have imagined."

Julia Conley

A neighbor filmed children being taken into a vacant office building in Phoenix, Arizona, and showed the footage to reporters when she suspected the children were immigrants who had been detained and possibly separated from their parents. (Photo: Reveal/YouTube)

An investigation sparked by reports from concerned neighbors who suspected that immigrant children were being housed in a vacant office building in Phoenix, illustrated the secrecy surrounding the care of children by the U.S. government and defense contractors that have been hired to help enforce the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting reported this weekend on an empty commercial space in Arizona's capital, where neighbors had seen groups of Spanish-speaking children being taken in recent weeks.

One neighbor secretly filmed several children being led into the building in early June.

The children were not seen coming out until three weeks later, just after President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending his policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"The neighbors say they saw five unmarked white vans that hold about 12 passengers each pull up to take children away," reported Aura Bogado, Ziva Branstetter, and Vanessa Swales.

The building, which has "dark windows, no kitchen, and only a few toilets," had been leased to MVM, Inc.—a defense contractor which, as Common Dreams reported last month, won an $8 million five-year contract to "provide assistance" in immigration detention centers and had made millions of dollars transporting children around the Southwest. 

Reveal reporters confirmed that according to the lease, "the building is not allowed to be used for sleeping or cooking and can be used only for 'general business office purposes.'"

When the journalists approached MVM the corporation denied housing any children in detention centers.

MVM amended its story, however, after being told about the neighbor's video, saying the building was "a temporary holding place" but not specifying how long children had been held there.

Trump critics have denounced the secrecy surrounding the separation and detention of families in recent weeks, with New York Democratic House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling the immigration operations taking place at the border and all over the country a "black-box detention system."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) condemned the "perverse secrecy of child separation" last week after being barred from visiting a child who had been taken away from her family and was being held in Connecticut.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) was able to tour a facility in Arizona on Friday after waiting a month for his visit to be approved, but said the facility's rule against visitors interacting with children and taking photos "raises more questions and the believability factor goes down" regarding the children's wellbeing.

"This level of paranoia and secrecy does not help the cause," Grijalva told Arizona Republic.

Nearly 3,000 children are still separated from their parents, and a federal judge on Friday denied Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar's request to extend a July 10 deadline for returning children under five to their families and a July 26 deadline for reuniting all families that the Trump administration forcibly separated.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Watch: Bernie Sanders Argues 'We Must End the Greed of Big Pharma'

The live address comes as the Senate Budget Committee chair continues to push for including Medicare expansion and drug pricing reforms in the Build Back Better package.

Common Dreams staff ·

Reconciliation Framework 'Not Enough' to Push Through Infrastructure Bill, Progressives Warn

"We need to have a vote ready for the Build Back Better plan, not a framework," insisted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "We want to have both of these votes together."

Brett Wilkins ·

McDonald's Workers Join 'Striketober' and Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment

One striker participated because "McDonald's still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe."

Jessica Corbett ·

Breaking: FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11

With just one abstention, the advisory panel voted 17-0 to approve the vaccine for younger children which scientific review has deemed both safe and effective against the deadly virus.

Common Dreams staff ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo