NEW YORK (AP) — When Wilfredo Molina arrived in the U.S. from his native Venezuela, he told border agents he wanted to go to Miami but didn’t have an address. They instructed him to think of a shelter in midtown Manhattan, but it 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 immigrants who recently arrived in the U.S. who agreed to share with The Associated Press documents they received when they were released from U.S. custody after crossing the Mexican border. Most had no idea where they were going — and neither did the people at the addresses listed on their paperwork, the AP found.
Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, did not respond to repeated questions about the families and individuals interviewed and the addresses assigned to them.
But the snuffs suggest a pattern of Border Patrol agents, particularly in Texas, sending immigrants without friends or family in the United States to offices that receive no notice. These places often have no place for immigrants. Yet because those addresses appear on the immigrant’s paperwork, important notes can be sent there later.
“We think the Border Patrol is trying to reflect the chaos they’re facing at the border to inland cities,” said Dennis Chang, executive director of the Colorado Housing Asylum Network. “We just need coordination so we can receive people properly.”
The documents shown to the AP included addresses for Catholic Charities’ administrative offices in New York and San Antonio. an El Paso, Texas, church; a private home in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts; And one group operates homeless shelters in Salt Lake City.
A Venezuelan family who came to the Denver administrative offices of the American Red Cross was sent to multiple shelters before someone volunteered to take them in. Immigrants arriving in New York ended up in shelters, hotels or temporary apartments that the city helped them find and pay for. of the
Number of illegal crossings due to increase in migration from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua The highest level ever recorded. in a fiscal year. In the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, immigrants were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37 percent from 1.73 million a year earlier and surpassing 2 million for the first time.
The year-end figures reflect worsening economic and political conditions in some countries, the relative strength of the US economy and uneven enforcement of asylum restrictions under Trump.
Many are immediately deported under asylum restrictions, a public health order known as Title 42, which denies people the chance to seek asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. .
But others — including people from Cuba and Nicaragua, with whom the U.S. has strained relations — are released with notices to appear in immigration court or under humanitarian parole. These refugees must tell agents where they will live, but many cannot provide an address.
“It almost seems like at the border, officials are just looking for any nonprofit address that they can or just looking for any name that they can and just putting that down. That without checking to see if the person mentioned it, or not. There’s a bed or a shelter, or even a place that can provide legal help,” said Lauren White, of New York. Managing Attorney with Catholic Charities of K. “So clearly, that’s not the most efficient way to do it.”
Most of the immigrants interviewed in New York rode the taxpayer-funded buses that the cities of Texas and El Paso regularly send to Northeast cities.
Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona are also sending immigrants released at the border to Democratic strongholds including Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He has been criticized for Failure to notify local authorities of projects. Republican They say they are highlighting problems with President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
The Biden administration recently agreed to accept up to 24,000 Venezuelans at U.S. airports if they apply for asylum online with financial sponsors, just as Ukrainians have been admitted since the Russian invasion. . Mexico has said. Will take Venezuela back. Those who cross the border into the United States and are deported under Title 42 authority.
Yessi Hernandez, a Venezuelan who arrived in New York after taking a bus from El Paso, says her documents show an address in an El Paso church where immigrants were not expected and where she slept for just one night. Now he fears an immigration notice could be sent there.
Hundreds of immigrants are shown with documents listing addresses at the Catholic Charities office in New York. The group complained and the government promised to end the practice by Aug. 1 — something that “obviously hasn’t happened,” White said.
White said the group has received more than 300 notices to appear in immigration court for people the organization does not know. It has also received deportation orders for immigrants who failed to appear in court because their notices were sent to Catholic Charities addresses.
Victor Quejada traveled to Denver with relatives last month after border agents escorted the Venezuelan family to an American Red Cross office building. Once there, they were sent to a city shelter that also turned them away. Eventually they found a shelter that took them in for a few days, but they felt unsafe.
“It was difficult what we had to go through. We had to go from food to living on the streets – an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” Quijada said.
Chang, from the Colorado Housing Asylum Network, eventually took the family in and her organization helped them lease an apartment. She said she knows of many immigrants who have been assigned addresses to groups that cannot help them.
“Of the five families I’ve worked with in the last three months, five were picked up off the street, literally sitting on the sidewalk with the kids,” he said.
The building in midtown Manhattan where Molina visited is the International Rescue Committee’s refugee resettlement office, but it provides only limited services to asylum seekers there, said Stanford Prescott, a spokesman for the group.
Only one of the IRC’s US offices – in Phoenix – operates a shelter for asylum seekers and most stay less than 48 hours. However, its offices in Dallas and Atlanta are also listed on immigration documents.
“We are deeply concerned that erroneously listing these addresses could create complications for asylum seekers who are pursuing the legal process for protection in the United States,” Prescott said.
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