An asylum-seeker from Honduras who presented himself at the southern border this summer seeking protection was forced to wait in Mexico until his court date in the United States. In case the government needed to contact him, a Border Patrol officer listed an address on his forms: “Facebook.”
The man, who asked to only be identified by his last name Gutierrez, told BuzzFeed News that shortly before he was sent back to Mexico along with his family, a Border Patrol agent asked him to confirm that a shortened version of his name was indeed the one he used on Facebook.
“I said ‘Yes, why?'” Gutierrez recalled. “The agent told me ‘Because that’s how we’re going to send you information about your court case.’ I thought that was strange, but what could I do?”
The form Gutierrez was given, called a Notice to Appear (NTA), is a charging document issued by the Department of Homeland Security that includes information on where an immigrant must present themselves for their first court hearing, and critically, should include an address where the applicant can be contacted if the time, date, or location of the hearing is changed.
If an immigrant fails to appear at court hearings they run the risk of being ordered deported in absentia by an immigration judge, which makes having accurate and detailed information on the forms crucial for asylum-seekers.
Gutierrez said he was never contacted about his case via Facebook and it’s unclear how DHS officials would contact an immigrant via social media.
A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson did not respond to questions about why an agent would write “Facebook” as a known address, or whether the agency was using immigrants’ social media accounts as a way to inform them of any changes or updates to their hearings.
By Adolfo Flores for BUZZ FEED NEWS
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