Some of the top members of New York City's congressional delegation are demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security, after News 4 reported migrants were being sent to the city with erroneous paperwork that left them without shelter and at risk of missing key asylum appointments.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Adriano Espaillat sent a letter Friday to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking what the department was doing to ensure asylum seekers were being sent to the right places, and then being given the chance to properly plead their cases in court.
"We write to you today regarding the transfer of asylum seekers from our nation’s border states of Arizona and Texas to New York City. According to recent reporting, asylum seekers being loaded onto buses from Arizona and Texas are dealt official Department of Homeland Security documentation directing them to social services organizations, rather than New York City’s Department of Homeless Services Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) intake center located at 151 East 151st Street in the Bronx," Ocasio-Cortez and Espaillat wrote, specifically citing a July 29 News 4 story.
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As News 4 reported, perhaps hundreds of people were sent to the city with paperwork that listed destinations where they could not, in fact, receive shelter. Weeks later, crucial paperwork started arriving for those people at those locations, meaning many were put at risk of missing crucial court dates.
In at least one case that's now under investigation, an officer sent an asylum-seeker to New York City with paperwork that had an entirely bogus address and phone number, signed with what appeared to be a hand-drawn emoji of a tongue sticking out.
"With recent news of Texas’ Governor bussing additional asylum seekers to New York City, we are concerned that if this matter is not dealt with in a timely manner, thousands of migrants will continue to be misled and denied resources they are legally owed such as access to food and shelter," they added in the letter.
Asylum seekers are being sent to New York City with hopes of a new, better life — but finding obstacle after obstacle instead.
Ocasio-Cortez and Espaillat requested written answers within 20 days on what DHS would do to ensure asylum seekers had the chance to appear before a judge, and how it would protect people who missed court dates because their paperwork was sent someplace it should not have been.
But Ocasio-Cortez and Espaillat are not alone in their concern. Rep. Ritchie Torres, vice chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, told News 4 on Friday that DHS and its agencies need to provide some answers on the misdirected paperwork.
"We're going to inquire whether there is in fact a process in place. And if there is no process in place, we have to create one. And if there is a process in place, there needs to be more oversight over ICE, over Border Patrol, over DHS officials," he said in an interview in the Bronx.
"I find it outrageous that DHS appears to be sending people to the wrong addresses, to places in the middle of nowhere as if you're dropping people in the desert," he said.
The department, for its part, has previously said that migrants are providing the addresses where their paperwork is sent.
Busses From Texas
Earlier Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his state would begin sending buses full of asylum seekers to New York City. (The state previously acknowledged it was sending migrants to Washington, D.C. in protest of the Biden Administration's border policies.)
"In addition to Washington, D.C., New York City is the ideal destination for these migrants, who can receive the abundance of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has boasted about within the sanctuary city," Abbott said in a statement sent to national media early Friday, as the first bus-load of asylum seekers arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Abbott and Adams have been locked in a war of words since July 19, when Adams released a statement alleging Texas and Arizona were shipping migrants to NYC and straining the city's shelter system. Both states denied it at the time.