So here’s a story that’s…I’m not sure which adjectives to unpack. Awkward? Uncomfortable? Tragically bad timing? I dunno. Here’s what happened.
On July 22, it was reported by the Associated Press that a private contractor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had habitually been using Hampton Inn & Suites hotels in Phoenix AZ and El Paso & McAllen TX as places to detain unaccompanied migrant children. The children would be left there for several days, where people in scrubs would go from room to room, taking care of them. Children as young as 1 year old, and as old as 5, stayed at these various hotels for anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks or longer, with no parents or other relatives with them.
This was all done instead of bringing them to government shelters, which is customary and in line with federal laws that cover trafficking and the treatment of migrant children. Typically, children would be sent to facilities that are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services. These are places with bedrooms and schooling, and the kids, who would also have access to lawyers, would eventually be placed with family sponsors. The facilities also are licensed by the states where they’re located.
Instead, these kids were dropped off at various Hampton Inn & Suites. A brand that’s, of course, under the Hilton umbrella.
When the story first came out, Hilton said in a statement that all three hotels were franchises and it believed rooms were booked directly with those owners.
“We understand these properties have been used for their intended purpose — temporary accommodation for guests traveling between locations,” the statement continued.
Obviously, things went south after that story broke because two days later, on July 24, Hilton released a statement that told a completely different story:
We believe that hotels should be places of hospitality.
Hilton has confirmed reports that the independently owned and managed Hampton Inn & Suites in McAllen, TX had accepted reservations from a private contractor working on behalf of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement. We understand these reservations were to house migrants, including minors, as they were transported between locations.
This is not activity that we support or in any way want associated with our hotels.
Our policy has always been that hotels should not be used as detention centers or for detaining individuals. We expect all Hilton properties to reject business that would use a hotel in this way. We are in the process of contacting all Hilton owners and management companies in the U.S. to remind them of our policy, and provide guidance on identifying and preventing this type of business.
We can also confirm that Hilton did not facilitate these reservations and does not have an enterprise agreement with the private contractor.
The ownership of the Hampton Inn & Suites in McAllen has tonight confirmed that they have cancelled this business and that the minors and chaperones are no longer at the hotel. They have also confirmed that their property will not accept similar reservations in the future.
OK, that’s better. Give your Crisis Communications Expert a raise.
Now fast forward to a few hours later.
Hilton, like all hotels, puts out press releases about anything they want people to know about. More recently it’s been a lot about the cleanliness initiatives which, in the age of COVID-19, is understandable. But on Friday afternoon, just a few hours after they said they don’t agree with locking babies in hotel rooms, they were telling the world about some changes that were coming to the products they used in their restaurants. This included the addition of plant-based menu items, and a new goal for the eggs they used.
And this is the title that at least one news source used:
Hilton Commits to New Cage-Free Goal, Promotion of Plant-Based Menu Items
In other words, on the same day they’ve decided to not use their hotels as detention centers anymore, they’ve also, coincidentally, committed to new cage-free goals.
So yeah…words and timing? They count, Hilton.
Feature Photo: pxfuel
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary