Immigrants line up for hours outside 26 Federal Plaza

I’ve been meaning to get over to Federal Plaza for months — since K. first emailed me about this situation last fall — and sadly it was the Trump arraignment that finally did it.

So while the entire New York (and beyond) press corps was sleeping overnight one block over in order to get a momentary glimpse at the former President Trump in court, a good thousand (my guess) people were lined up waiting to get a moment with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 26 Federal Plaza. From what K. says, they start camping out at 9:30 or 10p the night before and by 7a the line is at capacity. I went by at 7:30a and the queue went from mid-block on Worth around the corner down Lafayette and then around the corner again on Duane.

K. said there were always lines, but only in the past few months did it get out of control.​ “It seems crazy that people aren’t able to schedule an appointment, and instead have to camp out in the rain for 10 hours,” he wrote. “I can’t help but feel bad for anyone who has to wait like that.”

The press office at ICE replied quickly to say they understand there are processing delays at some ICE offices and are working to fix it — though they said they were making processing, staffing, and resource allocation improvements, there were no specific plans. The Enforcement and Removal Operations New York City field office has the capacity to see approximately 600 noncitizens a day, depending on the complexity of each case. I have to assume a lot of people are getting turned away.

They said they try to provide expedited attention to the elderly, pregnant, those with medical conditions, and those with young children — and the line was filled with kids of all ages, down to babies in strollers.

And people *can* make appointments, but that might not be evident if you don’t know where to look. ICE created a smartphone appointment scheduler for noncitizens. But clearly there are some major glitches.

There are a few things causing the delays:

  • The Enforcement and Removal Operations non-detained population continues to grow significantly, primarily driven by the increased apprehension of noncitizens at the Southwest border
  • Covid exacerbated processing delays.
  • People must appear in person, even though the agency now has smartphone check-in systems

If a noncitizen has any questions about reporting, they can call ICE at 833-383-1465 where operators can help in several languages.


1 Comment

  1. The USCIS is on life support these days. My personal circumstances have put me face to face with that. Fortunately, most will never have to deal with it. Processes that used to take a matter of a few weeks we are now warned may take up to two years, and require special work-arounds. The people there are hardworking and serious, and I don’t know what the actual structural problems may be, but be forewarned. I’m told that even passports are taking up to a half year to process now.