Asylum seekers undergo medical screenings and get settled in

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — As asylum seekers begin to settle into their new lives here in Rochester, News10NBC is learning more about what it took for them to get here.

Seventy-seven men, women and children seeking asylum in the United States are now staying at a hotel in Rochester. They are the first of three groups expected to be bused in from New York City over the course of the next few weeks. 

Most of the asylees who arrived on Monday night came with a single backpack or suitcase of belongings.  Which means while New York City is paying for their hotel, food, medical care and security, there are a lot of gaps to fill. 

“We have families from Latin America, from Africa and a number of other countries,” explains Cassandra Bocanegra with the New York Immigration Coalition.

Bocanegra works directly with the people who were brought to Rochester. Almost half of the asylees are children who crossed at the southern border with their parents.

“They left what they knew in order to provide something better for their children,” Bocanegra says. 

Outside the hotel on Wednesday, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke with a couple seeking asylum from Ecuador.

Through a translation app, they told her they were tired, it had been a long journey and they didn’t even know they were coming to Rochester until they were on the bus. 

Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza was at the hotel when these families arrived.

“Most of it was just reassurance. A lot of kids were just scared and they just wanted somebody to talk to them. I had one child ask me for a comb, and so I found a comb at the hotel and we combed his hair together,” he recalls. 

On Wednesday, the contracted medical provider was on-site to screen the asylee.

“We want them to make sure to do tuberculosis screening. We went through their protocol yesterday and it’s in line with what we do here in the Health Department. So, that’s the most important thing,” Dr. Mendoza explains. “They plan to COVID test everybody. Some of them have already been COVID tested and then do the usual travel history screening to figure out what country they’re from, when they came to the United States and then we’ll consult with that particular country’s CDC recommendations for what, if anything, is circulating in those countries and what vaccines might be needed in addition to any of the usual childhood vaccines.”