Migrants are sleeping outside immigration offices waiting to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, the Houston Chronicle reported on Friday.
Migrants started spending the night outside the Greenspoint Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Houston, Texas, so they would be guaranteed an appointment the next day, according to the Chronicle. Around a dozen migrants from Central America and Venezuela set up camping chairs or decided to sleep in their cars on Thursday.
“It surprised me because I thought (the check-in process) was something more quick, more organized,” a Venezuelan woman seeking asylum in the U.S. told the Chronicle. The woman asked to remain anonymous because her asylum case is pending.
The Venezuelan woman had an appointment set for Wednesday morning but was denied so she decided to camp out at the offices on Wednesday evening, the Chronicle reported. “One has to adapt,” she said.
Immigration attorneys said COVID-19 restrictions have caused the delay since the guidelines limit how many people can enter ICE offices, according to the Chronicle. Some migrants are upset they’ve had to spend so much time waiting for appointments.
“It’s terrible,” a Honduran migrant, Lurvin, told the Chronicle. “How they treat us is very very bad.” (RELATED: Over 94,000 Migrants In Southern Texas Released Into The US With Notices To Report, Leaked Docs Show)
Lurvin was turned away from the offices when her first appointment was scheduled so she tried sleeping outside the building with her four-year-old son, the Chronicle reported. She works two jobs in construction and cleaning and said she’s lost out on work opportunities while waiting for an appointment.
“I know that we’re immigrants and we’re in a country that isn’t ours,” Lurvin told the Chronicle. “But I believe that we do have rights as human beings.”
Several dozen migrants were lined up outside the offices on Thursday morning, hoping to see an official, according to the Chronicle. The migrants who camped overnight are given priority for appointments and many others who showed up later will have to come back and try again.
ICE resumed in-person appointments on June 21 and that a backlog in processing appointments should be expected, Houston immigration attorney Elizabeth Mendoza told the Chronicle.
“People are being turned away because the ICE field office is limiting how many people they let into their facility on a daily basis to report and they’re doing that because of COVID,” Mendoza said, the Chronicle reported. “We’re a big city with a lot of people who are on the immigration court docket.”
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