NEW YORK (AP) — When Wilfredo Molina arrived in the United States from his native Venezuela, he told border agents he wanted to go to Miami but didn’t have an address. They directed him to what he thought was a safe haven in midtown Manhattan, but turned out to be a gray office building.
“It was a fake building. I didn’t understand what it was,” he said.
Molina was among 13 migrants who recently arrived in the United States who agreed to share with The Associated Press the documents they received when they were released while seeking asylum after crossing the border with the Mexico. The AP found that most had no idea where they were going – nor did the people at the addresses listed on their documents.
Customs and Border Protection, which oversees border patrol, did not respond to repeated questions about the families and individuals interviewed and the addresses assigned to them.
But the snafus suggests a pattern of Border Patrol agents, particularly in Texas, sending migrants without friends or family to the United States to offices that receive no notice. Places often lack space to accommodate migrants. However, since these addresses appear on the migrants’ papers, important notices can be sent there later.
“We believe Border Patrol is trying to demonstrate the chaos they are experiencing on the border with inland cities,” said Denise Chang, executive director of the Colorado Housing Asylum Network. “We just need to coordinate to be able to receive people properly.”
Addresses on documents shown to AP included Catholic Charities administrative offices in New York and San Antonio; a church in El Paso, Texas; a private home in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts; and a group operating homeless shelters in Salt Lake City.
A Venezuelan family who went to the American Red Cross administrative offices in Denver were directed to several shelters before someone volunteered to take them in. Migrants who came to New York ended up in shelters, hotels or temporary apartments that the city helped them find and pay for. for.
An increase in migration from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua pushed the number of illegal crossings to the highest level ever recorded in a fiscal year. In the 12 months to September 30, migrants were arrested 2.38 million times, up 37% from 1.73 million the previous year and surpassing 2 million for the first time.
The year-end numbers reflect deteriorating economic and political conditions in some countries, the relative strength of the U.S. economy and the uneven enforcement of Trump-era asylum restrictions.
Many are being immediately deported under Asylum Restrictions, a public health order known as Title 42, which denies people the ability to seek asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
But others — including Cubans and Nicaraguans, with whom the United States has strained relations — are being released with summonses to immigration court or on humanitarian conditions. These migrants must tell officers where they will be living, but many cannot provide an address.
“It almost seems that at the border officials just look up any non-profit address they can or just look up any name they can and just write it down without ever checking to see if that person is there. mentioned, if there are beds or shelter there, or even if it is a place that can provide legal assistance,” said Lauren Wyatt, chief counsel for Catholic Charities of New York. “So clearly that’s not the most efficient way to do it.”
Most of the migrants interviewed in New York had hopped on taxpayer-funded buses that Texas and the city of El Paso regularly send to the northeast city.
Republican governors. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona also sent released migrants across the border to Democratic strongholds including Chicago, Washington, DC and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. They have been criticized for not informing local authorities of the plans. Republicans say they highlight problems with President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
The Biden administration recently agreed to accept up to 24,000 Venezuelans at US airports if they apply for asylum online with financial sponsors, in the same way Ukrainians have been admitted since the invasion of the Russia. Mexico has said it will take back Venezuelans who cross the border into the United States and are deported under Title 42.
Yeysy Hernández, a Venezuelan who arrived in New York after taking one of the buses from El Paso, says the address in her documents is for a church in El Paso that was not expecting migrants and where she only slept one night. Now she fears that immigration notices will be sent there.
Hundreds of immigrants showed up at one of the Catholic Charities offices in New York with documents showing the address. Wyatt said the group had complained and the government had promised to end the practice by August 1 – something that “obviously didn’t happen”.
The group also received more than 300 immigration court appearance notices for people the organization does not know, Wyatt said. He also received deportation orders for migrants who failed to appear in court because their notices were sent to a Catholic charities address.
Victor Quijada traveled with relatives last month to Denver after border agents sent the Venezuelan family to an American Red Cross office building. Once there, they were referred to a city shelter, which also turned them away. Eventually they found a shelter that took them in for a few days, but they didn’t feel safe.
“It was tough what we had to go through; from things we had to eat to being on the streets – an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” Quijada said.
Chang from the Colorado Housing Asylum Network eventually took the family into their home and his organization helped them rent an apartment. She said she knows several migrants assigned to group addresses that cannot help them.
“The five families I’ve worked with over the past three months have all been picked up off the street, literally sitting on the sidewalk with kids,” she said.
The midtown Manhattan building Molina went to is an International Rescue Committee refugee resettlement office, but it provides only limited services to asylum seekers, said Stanford Prescott, a spokesperson for the group.
Only one of the IRC’s US offices – in Phoenix – operates a shelter for asylum seekers and most stay for less than 48 hours. Yet his Dallas and Atlanta offices were also listed on migrant documents.
“We are deeply concerned that the misregistration of these addresses may cause complications for asylum seekers following legal process to seek safety in the United States,” Prescott said.