A letter from several non-profit organizations and an article at BuzzFeed point to border law enforcement officials inventing addresses around the United States and adding them to asylum seekers’ immigration paperwork, when those asylum seekers lack U.S. relatives, contacts, or specific destinations. In most cases, the addresses that officials—usually Border Patrol agents—add to documents like immigration-court hearing notices and Notices to Appear are those of non-profit service providers in cities around the United States.
CBP and Border Patrol do not inform those service providers. “Catholic Charities in New York, City received over 300 such notices,” the letter reads. It adds that asylum seekers are showing up at nonprofits or churches around the country with paperwork, issued by CBP, Border Patrol or ICE, showing those entities’ locations as migrants’ intended residences.
An October 2022 Associated Press review of 13 migrants’ documents found addresses including those of “administrative offices of Catholic Charities in New York and San Antonio; an El Paso, Texas, church; a private home in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts; and a group operating homeless shelters in Salt Lake City.”
In many cases, the non-profits are not prepared for the migrants’ arrival or to receive walk-ins. In some cases, service providers receive notifications that migrants may be headed their way, but are unable to locate them. “These immigrants and asylum-seekers, most of them from Venezuela, then show up to random buildings confused and unsure of what to do next,” BuzzFeed reported. “It’s definitely been happening, and there’s hundreds of cases,” BuzzFeed reporter Adolfo Flores told Texas Standard.
“The DHS [Department of Homeland Security] agent will just seem to invent an address from thin air to put on their release paperwork,” immigration attorney and asylum advocate Taylor Levy told BuzzFeed. At times, she said, the Border Patrol agent or ICE officer will mislead the migrant, telling them that shelter and other services will be available at the address.
Reports about eight Venezuelan men arriving, baffled, at a Sacramento, California office building were apparently one of these cases. They were flown there by a San Antonio, Texas service provider that had purchased plane tickets based on the addresses that U.S. border law enforcement personnel had added to the migrants’ immigration forms. A Venezuelan migrant told the New York Times that he and his brother “had no family in the United States. ‘The officials picked Denver for us, and that was it.'”
This practice jeopardizes asylum-seekers’ immigration cases. If the migrant does not receive notifications for court hearings or other required appearances they cannot follow through with their cases, which can lead to in-absentia deportation orders. All correspondence regarding such appearances gets mailed to the address on these forms, unless the migrant goes to a nearby ICE office to change it, a complex process.
Some of the problem stems from agencies’ need to process large numbers of asylum seekers quickly, at a time of record migration. “I’m sure that Border Patrol agents, they’re just trying to get people out of their facilities. They don’t want to hold them there any longer than they have to, and without an address, in some cases I’m sure the agents tell them it’s either ‘I put this address or you stay here longer,’” Flores of BuzzFeed told Texas Standard.
Still, Levy told Flores, “it is certainly wrong—and appears illegal—for federal agents sworn to uphold the law to randomly choose addresses of churches, legal service agencies, and immigration nonprofits from crude google searches and then record them as alleged ‘residential’ addresses for desperate asylum-seekers.”
— American Immigration Lawyers’ Association and coalition partners. “AILA and Partners Submit Recommendations to Fix Erroneous Addresses on Asylum Seekers’ Documents,” September 15, 2022. <https://www.aila.org/infonet/organizations-urge-administration-to-address>.
— Flores, Adolfo. “Border Agents Keep Sending Immigrants To Wrong Addresses With Little Regard For How It Could Affect Their Court Cases, Advocates Say.” BuzzFeed News, September 21, 2022. <https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adolfoflores/immigrants-border-wrong-addresses-shelter>.
— Kristen Cabrera. “Federal Immigration Agents Are Writing Wrong Addresses on Some Migrants’ Documents, Creating Confusion.” Texas Standard (blog), September 27, 2022. <https://www.texasstandard.org/stories/federal-immigration-agents-writing-wrong-addresses-migrants-documents-creating-confusion/>.
— Clauda Torrens and Vanessa A. Alvarez. “US Border Patrol Sends Migrants Places Where No Help Waits.” Associated Press, October 24, 2022. <https://apnews.com/article/texas-new-york-manhattan-religion-immigration-6d400698888dc0797f1883176baf12c7>.
— Robles, Justo. “No Money or Options: A Migrant’s Unexpected Journey to California.” The Guardian, September 24, 2022, sec. US news. <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/24/migrant-plane-venezuela-sacramento>.
— Jordan, Miriam, and Brittany Kriegstein. “Abrupt New Border Expulsions Split Venezuelan Families.” The New York Times, November 6, 2022, sec. U.S. <https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/06/us/venezuelan-families-separated-border.html>.