Immigration News: September 16, 2022

Yellow sign with black lettering, saying "Asylum is a human right."

As more information about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s immigrant airplane stunt surfaces, the story gets worse and worse. Migrants on the DeSantis-sponsored flight to Martha’s Vineyard were not put on a plane in Florida, but were recruited in Austin, Texas. They were given misleading information, including legal advice that jeopardizes their asylum cases and could lead to speedy deportation.

Some of the migrants who arrived in Martha’s Vineyard had been given printed flyers promising, in English and Spanish, that government benefits would be available to them. In fact, those benefits are available only to refugees and never to asylum seekers. They were also told they were being flown to Boston.

In Martha’s Vineyard, local government authorities, NGOs, and volunteers scrambled to welcome the new arrivals and find them food, shelter, and other resources. Migrants were bused to a center at Cape Cod, where they can be temporarily housed while more permanent arrangements are made. 

Massachusetts immigration attorney Rachel Self interviewed the migrants flown to Cape Cod and reported that they had been lied to and their asylum applications had been jeopardized. Here is a partial transcript of her remarks, thanks to WCVB

“According to accounts from the migrants who arrived last night make it clear that they were lied to again and again and fraudulently induced to board the planes. They were told there was a surprise present for them and that there would be jobs and housing waiting for them when they arrived. This was obviously a sadistic lie. 

“Not only did those responsible for this stunt know that there was no housing and no employment awaiting the migrants, they also very intentionally chose not to call ahead to any single office authority on Martha’s Vineyard so that even the most basic human needs arrangements could be made. Ensuring that no help awaited the migrants at all was the entire point. 

“They were provided with a cartoonishly simple map of Martha’s Vineyard and the United States and a brief brochure containing snippets from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website and instructions to change their address with USCIS when they relocated. This is especially troubling as anyone with even the most basic understanding of the immigration proceedings knows that USCIS was not the agency with whom the migrants would have to record their addresses and has nothing to do with their cases in any way. 

“It is clear that this was an intentional attempt to ensure that these migrants were removed in absentia when they failed to change their address with the proper agency. This was a purposeful derailment designed to prevent people from complying with federal immigration policies. 

“This is problematic because the state should not be interfering with federal immigration policy. Before they boarded the planes, the migrants were processed by agents of the Department of Homeland Security who listed falsified addresses on the migrants’ paperwork. Agents apparently chose random homeless shelters all across the country from Washington to Florida to list the migrants’ mailing addresses, even when told by the migrants that they had no address in the U.S. 

“According to the paperwork provided to them, the migrants are required to check in with ICE office nearest to the fake address chosen for them by DHS or be permanently removed from the United States, with some required to check in as early as this coming Monday. 

“it could not be clearer that this is an attempt to ensure that these people are ordered removed even as they try as hard as they can to comply with the instructions provided to them. There is no other reason to list as someone’s mailing address, a homeless shelter in Tacoma, Washington when they ship him to Massachusetts. 

“It is sickeningly cruel throwing obstacles in the way of people fleeing violence and oppression, some of whom walked through 10 countries in the hopes of finding safety. It is shameful and inhuman. 

“Many of these victims were deprived of medical care despite clear existing injuries. These are human beings who were deprived of basic human rights. To the people who find themselves,  these wonderful people who find themselves plane wrecked on our island, I have a message for all of them. You are not alone. We have your backs. We are proud to be here for you and we’ve got you.” 

And in other reports:

[San Antonio Report] “A 27-year-old Venezuelan migrant told the San Antonio Report Thursday he was paid $200 in cash to recruit people from outside San Antonio’s migrant resource center to board a flight that landed at Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday. …

“‘Perla informed me that in those sanctuary states, the state has the benefits to help migrants,’ Emmanuel said in Spanish over the phone. ‘I’ve just been the mediator because I like to help people.’”

[Boise Public Radio] “NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on Morning Edition.

“The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.”

In a speech to Republican donors days before the secret flights began, DeSantis said the point was to send a political message. 

[Washington Post] “’I do have this money. I want to be helpful. Maybe we will go to Texas and help. Maybe we’ll send to Chicago, Hollywood, Martha’s Vineyard. Who knows?’ he said to applause in a speech Friday evening at the Four Seasons in Orlando, where hundreds of the party’s top donors gathered to hear him, according to a detailed account by a person in the room.”

And in other news

Meanwhile, in Chicago, city and state officials and non-governmental organizations help to welcome migrants dumped on city streets by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s busing program. Illinois Governor Pritzker called up the National Guard to assist in relief efforts. 

[Chicago Catholic] “Chicago city officials, leaders of non-profit organizations and religious leaders pledged to help the migrants, all of whom went through intake at the border and can remain in the United States while their cases are processed. But they protested Abbott’s actions, which he said in a statement are necessary because the administration led by President Joe Biden, a Democrat, is not doing enough to stem the flow of migrants, and border towns are “overrun.” Abbott is a Republican.

“’Treating children of God as political pawns is unbecoming of any elected official, especially when it involves marginalized, suffering people,’ Cardinal Cupich said in a Sept. 2 statement. ‘The Archdiocese of Chicago stands with local municipal and religious leaders who have pledged to support these new arrivals seeking better, safer lives.’

“Once the first buses arrived, the migrants were shuttled to a shelter where they could get a hot meal and shower and sleep for the night, and the next day they were brought to an intake center where they received health screenings and help figuring out their next steps.”

Haitian migrants, frustrated with long waits and refusal to consider asylum applications, are protesting in Mexican towns near the U.S. border. 

[Border Report] “’We’ve seen them come out, develop groups of them protesting and saying, ‘We can’t take it anymore. Please, you have to help us get into the United States,’ and I say it’s not that simple. It’s not up to us. It’s really up to the United States and the proper authorities that decide who can enter and when,’ [Sister Norma] Pimentel said this week from her charity’s offices in San Juan, Texas. …

“She said 85% of all migrants in Reynosa are from Haiti, and they are suffering. …

“’It’s terrible and to be out in the hot sun like this for all day long, every day for weeks if not months, it’s very hard on them. It’s extremely hard. It’s like they reached a point where they cannot take it anymore,’ she said.”

Contrary to a lot of political rhetoric, the United States is not a particularly welcoming country for refugees. Refugees make up less than one-half of one percent of the U.S. population, and many other countries have much higher refugee populations. 

[Austin Kocher blog] “Out of a dataset of 167 countries with data, 97 countries have refugee populations over 0.1% (or 1 per 1,000). The United States ranks 54th in this list, somewhat ahead of the UK (0.4%) and Italy (0.3%) but behind Lebanon (12.6%), Turkey (4.8%), and Greece (1.5%).”


Title 42 bars most migrants from entering the United States, but allows very limited exemptions for those who are extremely vulnerable: sick, pregnant, or in high danger or persecution. About 60 people per day were allowed to enter at the McAllen port of entry in recent weeks, but now that port has been closed to all migrants, regardless of their extreme vulnerability. 

[Rio Grande Valley News] “Victor Cavazos, co-founder of the Sidewalk School, said they had already heard of the process coming to a halt in other places like Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Juarez.

“’That happened just this week, and today we got word that it’s happening in Reynosa,’ Cavazos said.”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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