By Melissa Gray and Rosa Flores, CNN
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Monday it’s working to address processing delays at its Orlando, Florida, office, days after a US lawmaker said hundreds of migrants are being forced to wait in long lines and even sleep in tents and cars as they wait for appointments.
US Rep. Darren Soto said in a letter he posted on Twitter that at least 250 people were experiencing delays. He wrote the letter, dated April 29, to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and acting ICE Director Tae Johnson.
“Our immigrant families deserve more respect than this inhumane treatment,” Soto, who represents part of Orlando, tweeted Saturday.
US Rep. Val Demings also wrote a letter Friday to Johnson and Corey Price, the executive associate director of ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, asking them to address the situation at the Orlando office.
“Reports indicate that hundreds of individuals, including young and infant children, have been requested to appear in person to meet with ICE officials. However, due to long lines, many are required to wait outside the facility for hours or even days following their scheduled appointments,” wrote Demings, whose district covers Orlando.
“We are a nation of laws, and immigrants in Orlando who are acting in good faith to fulfill their legal obligations have met with unacceptable delays due to staffing shortages,” she tweeted.
Migrants processed by federal immigration agents at the US southern border are allowed to travel within the United States to meet their families. They are usually given a deadline to check in with the local immigration office upon arrival at their final destination.
“They’re only taking in about 60 people a day,” Miquel Garcia told CNN affiliate WESH-TV on Friday. Garcia said he had been waiting outside the immigration office for five days and that a list of 200 names had been penned to honor places in line.
Garcia, a Venezuelan national, crossed into the US through Texas three months ago and was ordered to wear an ankle monitor with a tracking system when he was processed by immigration agents, he told WESH. The deadline for Garcia’s ICE check-in is unclear.
“Many of these people have recently arrived in the United States and are seeking appointments with immigration agents. Men, women and young children have been seen sleeping in cars and tents in the Florida heat as they wait to be processed,” Soto said in his letter, asking for an investigation and swift solution.
In a statement Monday, ICE said the Covid-19 pandemic had exacerbated processing delays.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working to address current processing delays at the Orlando ICE office,” the statement said.
ICE encouraged migrants to make an appointment online, which “allows ICE to process noncitizens more efficiently as they await their immigration proceedings.”
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CNN’s Rosalina Nieves contributed to this report.