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Migrant children may have been held in unlicensed Phoenix facility

(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)

Arizona elected officials are condemning a federal contractor for reportedly housing migrant children separated from their parents at the border inside a central Phoenix facility they say was not suited for children.

“This building we are in front of is a private prison for children,” Senate Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley said at a news conference outside the facility, where he was joined by several other Democratic elected officials.

“All the people here today are making clear that this will not happen in our community, and we cannot allow these illegal private prisons for children to be operating in our community,” Farley said.

The facility is a vacant office building near 20th Street and Osborn Road in Phoenix. A box with toys and clothes for kids was left outside but the facility appeared to be vacant on Monday.

An investigation published Friday by the Center for Investigative Reporting said the building operated by a U.S. defense contractor MVM, Inc., is not licensed to hold children in Arizona. The investigation also included videos from a neighbor showing white vans dropping off children and photos that suggested children may have been kept there overnight.

A spokesperson for MVM told the Center for Investigative Reporting the building was intended to hold children for a few hours before they were flown out to other locations.

Councilwoman Kate Gallego said the building does not meet city code to house children for overnight stays.

“This is not a facility that is appropriate for housing scared children who should not have been separated from their parents to begin with,” Gallego said.

She added the city’s fire and planning departments planned to inspect the facility this week.

On Monday, the Arizona Department of Health Services said in a statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM that surveyors conducted an onsite investigation and weren’t able to verify the building is operating as an unlicensed child care facility.

“Upon arrival, ADHS surveyors encountered a locked, empty and unoccupied building,” the statement read. “ADHS will continue to monitor all unlicensed child care complaints and is committed to ensuring children are in appropriate and safe care.”

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