migrant crisis

Attorneys Claim Asylum Seekers ‘Mocked' With Bogus Addresses, Disparaging Images on Government Forms

The federal Department of Homeland Security has been sending asylum seekers from Texas to New York City with sometimes inaccurate paperwork directing them to places where help is not actually available

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What to Know

  • Catholic Charities says one asylum seeker was sent from Texas to NYC with paperwork listing a bogus address and phone number, along with what looks like a hand-drawn emoji with the tongue stuck out that made him feel "disrespected"
  • Homeland Security opened an inquiry after the News 4 I-Team investigated, and says it has zero tolerance for any employee misconduct; Catholic Charities says its clients have faced retaliation from immigration officials for speaking out in past
  • New York City officials claim the shelter system is being inundated by migrants being shipped from border states, though other groups say the shelter situation is more complicated than that

The federal government is sending asylum seekers from Texas to New York City with sometimes questionable paperwork — and Catholic Charities says one example in particular illustrates the allegedly "disgusting treatment" of migrants at the border.

As News 4 previously reported, perhaps hundreds of migrants in recent months have been bussed from Texas to New York with paperwork directing them to shelters — except that the paperwork routinely sends them to wrong addresses where they cannot receive services, in some cases leaving families homeless and wandering the streets.

But this new example is, to some experts, the most egregious yet. Catholic Charities provided News 4 with redacted images of paperwork allegedly given to a migrant by an immigration officer in mid-July, sending that asylum seeker to a New York City address of “111 unknown" with a made-up phone number.

And in at least two separate places, the officer apparently signed that paperwork with what appears to be a drawing of an emoji — one eye closed, one eye open and the tongue stuck out. According to the organization, the migrant arrived in New York, sought out help from Catholic Charities and presented the document to a senior staffer on their legal team, who immediately photographed the papers.

An ICE spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday that the agency "can confirm employment of the individual but the matter remains unresolved at this time."

The statement also said that ICE "takes allegations of inappropriate behavior very seriously. Any allegations of inappropriate behavior is appropriately investigated, and any employee, regardless of rank or seniority, found to have committed provable misconduct, will be held accountable," the spokesperson said. "Personnel are held to the highest standards of professional and ethical behavior, and when a complaint is received, it is investigated thoroughly to determine veracity and ensure comprehensive standards, which ICE is required to follow, are strictly maintained, and enforced."

News 4 has not been able to independently verify the paperwork or contact the migrant who provided it to Catholic Charities. But the agency — which says its clients have suffered retaliation in the past from immigration officials for speaking up — says the document is both real and an example of how people are being treated as they cross the border.

Catholic Charities also says they provided the images of the paperwork to the Department of Homeland Security last week for their review.

It was the News 4 I-Team that exposed on Wednesday the problem of families sleeping in the waiting room of the city’s Bronx homeless intake office. NBC New York's Melissa Russo reports.

For its part, Customs and Border Protection said if there's a bad address on paperwork, the migrant may have provided it themselves.

“CBP screens and vets all migrants encountered at the border against multiple public safety databases, and any migrants who may pose a threat to national security or public safety are detained. Migrants who are provisionally released must provide an address and have strict immigration reporting requirements, including checking in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further processing once they reach their destination. Migrants are provided forms to update their addresses once they reach their destination. The federal government is not involved in the Texas and Arizona government’s busing of migrants to other states," a spokesperson for the agency said.

But migrants interviewed by the I-Team, by Catholic Charities and by the Legal Aid Society say they were given these addresses after being encouraged to seek asylum in New York.

Shelters in Crisis

The migrant crisis in New York City boiled over on July 19, when Mayor Eric Adams released a statement claiming the governors of Texas and Arizona were sending thousands of asylum seekers on buses to New York City, which has right-to-shelter laws that obligate the city to care for those migrants.

The governors of those states denied doing any such thing, and local critics of the Adams administration said the shelters were full due to understaffing, bureaucracy and rising eviction rates, not because of immigrants. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott went so far this week as to invite Adams to the border for a tour, an offer City Hall declined.

Hundreds of migrants have arrived in New York City in recent weeks with Homeland Security documents directing them to addresses of office buildings or local charity headquarters that are not set up to receive them. The government has subsequently been sending the migrants' mail to those same bad addresses, including hundreds of notices to appear in immigration court. Migrants can be deported if they fail to show up.

In this week's episode of The Debrief, News 4 government affairs reporter Melissa Russo sat down with News 4 anchor David Ushery to explain how migrants are being sent from Texas to NYC with paperwork that sent them to places that can't help them.

The problem is that those papers are often incorrect — for example, sending families to shelters that only accept women, or sending people to the corporate offices of charities rather than their actual service facilities.

In some cases, that has led to families sleeping on the streets, or in cars, for lack of a place to stay or information on the city's actual shelter intake site, PATH on East 151st in the Bronx.

The city's commissioner of social services, who oversees the shelter system, said last week he was not aware people were being sent here with bad paperwork until a News 4 inquiry.

Mayor Adams is calling for federal funding as thousands of migrant families from Central and South America are being shipped to NYC’s homeless shelter system from border states who don't want them — but the governors of Arizona and Texas deny they’re shipping families off with one-way tickets and slammed Adams for being content with Biden's immigration policies until the crisis touched his own backyard. Melissa Russo reports.
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