Exploitation and Neglect: National Guard Members Accused of Abusing Vulnerable Migrants at Buffalo Hotels

Buffalo, New York – National Guard members stationed at hotels in Buffalo where migrants await asylum hearings are facing a federal lawsuit that accuses them of sexually exploiting the vulnerable population. The migrants, who describe feeling isolated and unsafe in their living conditions, have reported living in unclean rooms and experiencing limited access to the outside world.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, names the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, six New York National Guard members, and several employees of DocGo, the contractor hired by New York City to attend to the migrants’ needs. The plaintiffs include six female and one male asylum seeker, as well as current and former employees of Platinum Community Care, a subcontractor, who have come forward with allegations of misconduct.

One Venezuelan woman’s experience paints a disturbing picture presented in the lawsuit. She had fled from sexual traffickers in Mexico and crossed treacherous rivers with her children, only to find herself in a desolate, snow-covered property in rural America, where she faced pressure from a member of the NY National Guard for sexual favors.

The lawsuit also highlights instances where National Guard members and DocGo staff were seen engaging in intimate dances and romantic encounters with guests. Some guardsmen even brought migrants to another nearby hotel where they were staying. The vulnerability of the migrants, due to their uncertain immigration status and limited mobility, compounded their exploitation.

According to the suit, the asylum seekers were transferred to Buffalo, eight hours away from New York City, after being misled about the proximity of the two locations. Their living conditions at the run-down hotel were deplorable, with foul odors, damaged infrastructure, and insect-infested mattresses that left the children repeatedly bitten.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul deployed the National Guard members to ensure stability after reports of violence and public criticism surrounding the arrival of the migrants. However, the allegations of misconduct have raised serious concerns about the safety and well-being of those under the Guard’s care.

The lawsuit seeks a minimum of $9 million in damages for charges including battery, false imprisonment, and emotional distress. The National Guard and DocGo have faced mounting pressure to address the allegations. A National Guard spokesperson stated that violators would face administrative and/or disciplinary consequences if the allegations are substantiated.

Meanwhile, DocGo has provided requested information to the Office of the New York State Attorney General for review. The Attorney General’s office has not yet confirmed whether an investigation is underway. DocGo maintains that it is committed to the safety and well-being of those in its care, conducting internal investigations into misconduct allegations and enforcing strict policies to address such instances.

The federal lawsuit sheds light on the alleged mistreatment faced by vulnerable migrants awaiting asylum hearings in Buffalo. It puts a spotlight on the need for greater oversight and accountability to ensure their safety and dignity during the asylum process.