A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan accuses National Guard members and contractors assigned to Buffalo-area hotels housing migrants awaiting asylum hearings of sexually exploiting the vulnerable individuals. The lawsuit, brought by six female and one male asylum seeker, along with a dozen current and former employees of subcontractor Platinum Community Care, alleges misconduct by at least six New York National Guard members and several employees of the contractor DocGo.
The migrants described feeling particularly vulnerable while living in unclean rooms, far from their families, and with limited access to the outside world. They reported being deceived into traveling to Buffalo, only to be housed in a run-down hotel with unsanitary conditions, foul odors, exposed electrical outlets, and damaged drywall. The mattresses provided were stained and infested with insects, leading to repeated bites on the bodies of the children residing there.
According to the lawsuit, one Venezuelan woman, referred to as Jane Doe, who had already endured a treacherous journey through jungles and evaded sexual traffickers in Mexico, found herself isolated in a snow-covered rural property in America. She faced pressure from a member of the New York National Guard for sexual favors. The lawsuit also alleges that National Guard members and DocGo staff were observed engaging in intimate dancing and romantic kissing with the guests. Guardsmen even brought migrants to the hotel where they were staying, further exploiting their vulnerable situation.
The migrants, who were transferred from New York City after arriving in 2023, described their uncertain immigration status, lack of mobility, and basic supply needs. Even a trip to a Walmart was considered a significant gift. The lawsuit seeks at least $9 million in damages for battery, false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress, and other causes.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul had deployed National Guard members to the site to act as a stabilizing presence following reports of violence and public criticism of the migrants’ arrival. The National Guard spokesman, Eric Durr, stated that anyone found violating rules would face consequences, including administrative and/or disciplinary actions. Criminal activities would be referred to law enforcement for appropriate action.
DocGo, the contractor responsible for overseeing the migrants’ needs, stated that they had provided requested information to the state attorney general’s office for review. The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to inquiries about an ongoing investigation.