Thousands wait in line for check-ins at New Orleans ICE office
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - COVID-19 shuttered many offices and the way they operate, including the ICE field office in New Orleans along Poydras Street.
In-person check-ins have been on hold since the start of the pandemic, with the office pushing back its opening date due to surges throughout 2021. However, flyers remained on the door of the office, letting immigrants in need of the agents’ service that they were to report on Jan. 10, 2022.
An ICE spokesperson said the office did not expect thousands of people lining up around the high rise during the cold. Only a handful of people actually saw an agent and the rest were out of luck.
“There were people telling us to come. Come so that you don’t lose your check-in,” immigrant Greicy said. “I saw hundreds and hundreds of people. It had to be about 3,000 or 2,000 people there. You had this huge line in the cold and a lot of us came with kids. I came with my 4-year-old daughter in the cold. I didn’t have to bring her because she was born here but I didn’t have anyone else to watch her.”
Check-ins are important in order to maintain immigration status or else there is a risk of deportation. Witnesses say that once the office set a date in 2022, everyone made plans to arrive on the same day, as early as possible.
“Many people arrived, they may have their case here, but they work in Houston, or in Mississippi or Dallas,” Greicy said. “They came because this is the day that (ICE) said they would be open, and this is the day that all of these people had to come.”
Since the long line, an ICE Spokesperson has apologized for the incident. The field office also urges people to make an appointment using the ICE Appointment Scheduler or by calling (504) 599-7800. However, Rachel Taber, with immigration rights group Unión Migrante, says the ability to make appointments should have been clearer in order to avoid this week’s confusion.
She also says the lack of social distancing during the city’s increase in COVID-19 cases was also a major concern.
“It is a cruel situation. They are wasting federal resources that could be better spent in regard to the pandemic, not exposing people (to COVID-19),” Taber said. “In my opinion, it doesn’t touch their hearts to see mothers with babies outside in the cold.”
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