ORLANDO, Fla. – Some are calling it an inhumane situation. At least 250 people, including small children, were seen waiting under the sun for hours, and in some cases, having to sleep two or three nights outside an Orlando Immigration and Customs Enforcement office — all waiting to be seen by an immigration official.
No restroom or shade was provided to them, according to those waiting.
They were men, women, and small children who recently arrived from countries like Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela, and Colombia after crossing the southern border.
Juan Salas was supposed to be seen at 9 a.m. He said he arrived at 3 a.m., but by noon, he was still waiting and was No. 200 on a list put together by the people
Salas said in his native language that nobody from the office said anything, and when they tried to ask an official, they were told they couldn’t ask questions and to get back in line.
Salas migrated from Venezuela and told News 6 that he crossed the border with a coyote — the term commonly used for a human smuggler.
After walking the Arizona desert, he encountered border patrol agents.
Julián Agudelo said he arrived from Colombia after he crossed the border. His appointment with ICE was April 27 at 11 a.m., but he’s spent more than 24 hours outside the office waiting to be seen.
The situation outside the Orlando immigration office has spilled over to John Ruggieri’s business, just a few feet away.
“You know, you gotta feel sorry for them, but my word: it’s jeopardizing my business at this point. It’s making it difficult for my people to park,” Ruggieri said. “I would say it’s gotten really bad in the last three, four, five weeks, and it just seemed to have escalated every day; every day a little bit worse.”
Dozens of immigrants arrived before sunrise and line up outside the ICE office, but not everyone was seen at the time they were told to arrive.
“It’s not their fault, right? It’s like how do you -- you have to empathize with them. They’re doing what they’re told to do,” Ruggieri said. “I mean, if they know they’re going to process 80 people a day or whatever their number is, that’s how many appointments you give.”
Instead of going home, some decided to spend the night on the sidewalk, in their cars, even in camping tents.
A statement on the issue by the Department of Homeland Security read: “Noncitizens recently apprehended by U.S. customs and border protection along the southwest border and given a notice to report or parole must check-in with U.S. ICE after arriving at their destination, and they must appear in-person for their initial ICE appointment.”
Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, said in a statement:
“The scenes outside of the Orlando ICE office are very concerning. We are sending out a letter this week to request a more orderly appointment schedule, additional personnel, and other resources.”