Republican governors have sent more migrants released from the US border with Mexico to Democratic strongholds, raising questions about their legal status, how they are lured aboard buses and planes, and the cost to taxpayers.
Ron DeSantis of Florida flew about 50 Venezuelans to the small, luxury island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts last week. Over the weekend, Texas Greg Abbott brought more migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in Washington.
US authorities are grappling with unusually large numbers of migrants crossing the border from Mexico amid rapidly changing demographics. The government said Monday that people from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua were responsible for more than one of the three migrants stopped at the border in August.
Since April, Texas has brought about 8,000 migrants to Washington, 2,200 to New York and 300 to Chicago. Arizona has busted more than 1,800 to Washington since May, while the city of El Paso, Texas, has shipped more than 1,100 to New York as of August 23.
Here are some questions and answers:
ARE MIGRANTS LEGAL IN THE UNITED STATES?
Yes, temporarily. Tens of thousands of migrants illegally crossing the border from Mexico are released into the United States each month with a summons to appear in immigration courts to seek asylum or on humanitarian grounds with an obligation to report regularly to immigration authorities. Migrants can apply for asylum if they enter the country illegally under US and international law, and US authorities have broad powers to grant parole based on individual circumstances.
Migrants must have a current address with the authorities, who schedule appointments in a city with the nearest court or immigration office. They must apply for a work permit separately.
Last year, according to the Biden administration, it took an average of nearly four years for asylum cases to be decided in immigration court, leaving migrants in a legal purgatory that protects them from deportation. According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, immigration court backlogs have risen to more than 1.9 million cases.
To prevent massive overcrowding in detention centers, the government began releasing many migrants on humanitarian parole. The border patrol released nearly 250,000 migrants on parole from August to June, including 40,151 in June, the latest figures show. In the past seven months, it has released only 11 migrants on parole.
ARE THESE MIGRANTS abducted?
Kidnapping is a high legal barrier, but migrants who flew to Martha’s Vineyard say they were taken there under false pretenses. Migrants sign waivers that transportation is free and voluntary.
DeSantis operated a state program that allows migrants deemed “unauthorized aliens” to be moved “out of Florida,” although the governor has acknowledged the flights are from Texas.
They stopped in Florida first, before going to Martha’s Vineyard, but DeSantis didn’t emphasize that. Instead, he claims the two flights were a legitimate use of funds as the migrants would otherwise have targeted Florida, though he offered no evidence of that or said how migrants would have been vetted.
Migrants who boarded told The Associated Press that a woman who approached them at a San Antonio shelter promised jobs and three months of housing in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston.
DOES THE ADMINISTRATION BUS OF BIDEN NOT CARRY MIGRANTS AROUND THE COUNTRY?
Yes, but under different circumstances. Like previous governments, it transports migrants between detention centers, often en route to be removed from the country.
According to Witness to the Border, a group that has criticized U.S. enforcement, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service has operated more than 4,800 domestic flights in the past year, including 434 in August. The top five destinations from March to August were: Alexandria, Louisiana; Laredo, Texas; Phoenix; and Harlingen and El Paso in Texas. ICE bus also many migrants.
The Department of Health and Human Services transports unaccompanied children to “sponsors,” often family or child-only detention centers.
HAS ANYONE ASKED FOR THIS?
Republican-led states say they are sending migrants to “sanctuary” towns that welcome immigrants. While the definition of a refuge is slippery, a sudden influx of migrants can test the attitude and limits of generosity.
Chicago’s “Welcoming City Ordinance” prohibits people from asking about their immigration status, refusing services based on immigration status, and disclosing information to federal immigration authorities.
New York restricts cooperation with US immigration authorities, including by prohibiting police officers from participating in joint enforcement and or allowing immigration officers to work in city prisons.
In Martha’s Vineyard, the six towns that make up the island south of Boston have not issued “sanctuary” statements.
The Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for restrictions, maintains an extensive list of “sanctuary” jurisdictions, which by definition restrict cooperation with federal immigration authorities. They include Boston and seven other Massachusetts cities. None of the towns in Martha’s Vineyard are on the list.
WHO PAYS AND HOW MUCH?
Texas has pledged billions of dollars to Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star,” an unprecedented step toward border security, including bus travel, prosecution of border crossings, and massive presence of state poachers and the National Guard.
The Florida legislature has allocated $12 million for its program for the current fiscal year.
The city of El Paso, which last week signed a contract with a private bus company for up to $2 million, plans to seek reimbursement from the federal government.
Associated Press reporters Don Babwin in Chicago, Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida, and Sophia Tulp and Philip Marcelo in New York contributed to this report.