Outrage sparks across La. cities as asylum seekers dropped off with no warning to officials, groups

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:50 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Society of St. Vincent de Paul received a phone call Friday, July, 16 asking if they could house around 60 immigrants at their shelter.

“Unfortunately, our shelter at that time had all filled up and I understand that those being dropped off were single men mostly, maybe some single women,” says Michael Acaldo, who is the president of St. Vincent de Paul.

Immigrants bussed to Baton Rouge were dropped off at the Greyhound bus station and directed to St. Vincent de Paul. Volunteers at the shelter gave them bags of goods and toiletries, even though they could not house them.

Instead, they found support from the group “Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention.” The Baton Rouge chapter says they were notified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that immigrants were on the way to South Louisiana.

“We had volunteers there and there were volunteers in New Orleans that housed the ones that couldn’t get plane tickets out that same day. We want as much notice as possible when people are coming, and more volunteers are always welcome to help,” says Frances Kelley, who is a volunteer with Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention.

However, that is not always the case. Kelley says at the three other drop-off sites in Shreveport, Natchez, and Monroe the group wasn’t told in advance about immigrants seeking asylum in those cities.

Some of the state’s top politicians say they weren’t told about the immigrant transfers.

“I don’t know if there is a legal requirement for ICE to notify the elected officials, but I always think that better communication will help ensure the safety,” adds Kelley.

Some of those leaders who say they were left out of the loop include Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, Senator Bill Cassidy, and Congressman Garret Graves. Those who spoke with WAFB say they’re upset with the little to no warning give to local officials.

“All of a sudden if you see a surge of people that potentially don’t speak English, people who don’t have no idea where in our community they can be going for help, or what type of assistance are available…these people are potentially homeless like this is just unjust to be doing to folks,” says Congressman Graves.

Now the Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention did write up a civil rights complaint accusing ICE of not following the proper guidelines when it comes to transporting immigrants. They sent the complaint off to Homeland Security and ICE hoping to clean up some of the confusion.

WAFB did reach out to ICE, and they did not get back to the station.

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