NEW YORK (WABC) -- Five buses filled with migrants from Texas arrived in New York City Thursday, one day after dozens of migrants arrived wearing bracelets with bar codes.
City officials said they had heard stories about the bracelets but hadn't seen them on migrants in New York City until Wednesday.
According to the city, officials were alarmed when they discovered that nearly all 237 migrants were wearing the barcode bracelets that day.
The bracelets were cut off as soon as the migrants got off the buses at the Port Authority.
It's thought the barcodes were being used as tracking devices to try to keep asylum seekers from leaving the bus until they get to New York City or Washington, D.C.
Maribel DeLeon and her family got off one of the buses exhausted, but relieved.
"I was in the jungle for 10 days with six kids, it was very difficult and tough but I'm here fighting for a better future for my children," DeLeon said through a translator.
The family from Venezuela was among the 223 migrants that made it to New York from Texas many of which were also wearing barcode bracelets.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott's office said the bracelets are protocol when processing the migrants, comparing them to plane tickets.
"The bracelets hold each migrant's information and the voluntary consent waivers they sign upon boarding that they agree on the destination," the latest statement from his press office reads.
They are being used to "ensure accurate and safe travel for people to their final destinations," despite the Abbott administration previously saying that asylum seekers can get off the buses wherever they stop and don't have to take the full trip to New York City or Washington.
"Mayor Adams and his administration need to stop with the baseless lies and fearmongering," Press Secretary Renae Eze said. "These bracelets are standard protocol for voluntary transport by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and have been used during times of natural disasters like hurricanes when needing to transport people to safety...Instead of spreading falsehoods and complaining about a few hundred migrants being bused to his sanctuary city, Mayor Adams should call on President Biden to take immediate action to secure the border -- something the president continues failing to do."
Meanwhile, Abbott and New York City Mayor Eric Adams' spokesperson have been exchanging barbs on Twitter.
Abbott said the mayor should call on President Joe Biden to secure the border, while Adams' spokesperson said the mayor is welcoming the migrants with open arms and that they deserve more than being used by a governor who only wants to get reelected.
"Too many people who are attempting to pursue the dream are living the nightmarish reality as they attempt to cross borders and come and participate in the dream," Adams said during a naturalization ceremony on Tuesday. "They are turned away by other states, but not here in New York, in New York City. We're the keeper of the dream."
The city has now assisted over 7,000 asylum seekers in our shelter system, but the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Miguel Castro noted many others may be bypassing the shelter system to stay with family or to move on to other cities.
Fourteen hotels have been converted into temporary housing as the influx of migrants continues to put a strain on resources.
The city has turned to community organizations, like Masbia Soup Kitchen, one of several groups at Port Authority greeting and helping migrants as they disembark the buses.
"We've seen people arrive without shoes, flip flops, we just give them a fresh start," Masbia Soup Kitchen Executive Director Alexander Rapaport said.
As for the bar codes, Castro said they are a way to intimidate people to stay on the bus.
"We've heard from asylum seekers that feel they are being trapped because of these bracelets," he said. "These bracelets, we don't know much about why they are being used or what is their intention, but we know that it has scared asylum seekers."
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