A feature on the CBS program 60 Minutes, about Venezuelan migrants bused to New York, found that 12 of 16 migrants interviewed had important documents taken from them by U.S. border law enforcement personnel, and not returned.
Like many migrants we spoke with, Edward and Maria no longer have their Venezuelan passports, ID cards, or birth certificates, they say they were told to hand them over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Texas and never got them back.
Edward (Translation): Well, they put it in a folder They said, “Whenever you go to court, you can ask for them there.”
… We interviewed 16 migrants who arrived in New York by bus from Texas. All but four said they had important documents taken and not returned. And volunteers, case workers, and lawyers who work with the migrants also told us the problem is widespread.
In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was reviewing its “policies and practices to ensure that… documents are returned to the migrant absent a security or law enforcement reason.”
A subsequent CBS News report quoted some of the affected migrants.
Beberlyn, 33, a migrant from Venezuela who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this year, said Border Patrol agents kept several of her family’s personal documents, including their passports, Venezuelan identification cards, her children’s birth certificates and her husband’s drivers license.
…Like other migrants, Beberlyn said border agents told her they would receive their documents during their immigration court hearing. But her family has yet to receive a court appointment, and attorneys said it’s unlikely that documents confiscated along the southern border will be transferred to courts across the U.S.
“I do need them,” Beberlyn said regarding the documents. Her surname is being withheld due to her pending immigration case. “Passports are very important here. To open an account, to identify yourself, and I don’t have that document. I don’t have the children’s birth records because they took them from me. That makes me feel terrible.”
…Maria, another Venezuelan migrant living in a New York City shelter with her family, said Border Patrol agents failed to return her children’s birth certificates and vaccine records, as well as her and her husband’s passports and identification cards. She asked for her surname to be omitted, citing her pending case.
During a recent check-in appointment at the ICE office in Manhattan, Maria said she was told their documents were still in Texas when she asked about their whereabouts. She said her 1-year-old daughter’s vaccination has been delayed since they longer have records showing what shots she has received and when.
Maria said she was also told her family’s documents would be returned in immigration court, but she does not think she’ll see them again.
“I haven’t heard anyone say that they got their documents back,” she added.
— “Migrants Bused from Southern Border to New York City Enter a Backlogged and Broken Asylum System.” 60 Minutes. New York: CBS, November 6, 2022. <https://www.cbsnews.com/news/migrant-buses-southern-border-new-york-city-60-minutes-2022-11-06/>.
Camilo Montoya-Galvez, Andy Court, Julie Holstein, and Annabelle Hanflig. “Accounts of Migrants’ Documents Being Confiscated by Border Officials Prompt Federal Review.” CBS News, November 7, 2022. <https://www.cbsnews.com/news/immigration-migrants-documents-confiscated-border-officials/>.