Why Republican Governors are Putting Migrants on the Move – CNN One Thing
I want you to think about the last time you visited a new city. Navigating the streets or public transit was probably a little disorienting at first. Right. Now, imagine you had just made a dangerous journey across the U.S. Mexico border, followed by a long bus or plane ride and then set foot in that new city. How confusing would that be?
More busses, more migrants shipped from Texas to New York City this morning.
Two busses filled with migrants arrived unannounced outside Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence.
Dozens of mostly Venezuelan migrants were transported from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
All part of a campaign by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to send migrants to so-called sanctuary cities by surprise.
For the past few months, this has been the reality for thousands of migrants pouring into liberal communities sent along by three Republican governors. Now, those governors willingly admit they’ve been doing this. But just how willing some of the migrants have been to make these trips, that’s been a little trickier to pin down. Lucky for us, we have CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez. She covers all things immigration out of D.C. And this week she’s going to unravel why this is happening and how it squares with the reality on the ground at the U.S. southern border. From CNN, this is One Thing. I’m David Rind.
Priscilla, I still want to take a really big step back here. How did this all start?
So we have to go back to April.
Gov. Greg Abbott
With the Biden administration ending Title 42, expulsions in May, Texas will be taking its own unprecedented actions this month.
At that time, Texas Governor Greg Abbott began sending busses with migrants who had crossed the US-Mexico border, been processed by authorities and then released to Washington, DC.
Gov. Greg Abbott
We are sending them to the United States Capitol, where the Biden administration will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people that they are allowing to come across our border.
And remember, Abbott is a fierce critic of the Biden administration, particularly over its border policies. And so he did this sort of as an affront to the administration and to make a point at the really the doorstep of the White House. So that sort of kicked into gear in April. Thereafter, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey jumped in and did the same thing. Since then, this has really broadened.
The mayors of Chicago and New York say Texas Governor Greg Abbott is using the migrants as political pawns.
Mayor Eric Adams
It’s just a mean and cruel thing that he’s doing.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot
This is not a governor who once said collaborate and cooperate with us.
Texas is now sending migrants to New York City and Chicago as well.
Gov. Greg Abbott
To relieve our communities. We have to continue these bussing operations.
It has been a huge operation and a very costly one. So we know from Texas that they’ve already spent more than $12 million transporting migrants via busses and that they’re sending thousands. So just to break it down, particularly for Texas, they’ve sent over 8000 to DC, over 2600 to New York City and over 675 to Chicago. And these busses keep coming.
Wow. So these people that come over there just being rounded up and plopped on busses, like how does this actually work on the ground?
All the governors that are involved in this, particularly because of the length of the operation so far with Texas and Arizona, have said it’s voluntary. And from what I have gathered in reporting and talking to migrants is that it is. So again, when migrants are processed and released by authorities, they often go to a shelter. And it is at those shelters where it seems that there is that opportunity to jump on a bus to either D.C., New York or Chicago if you’re in Texas or in Arizona, just to D.C. So they get on those busses on a voluntary basis. But if you’ve ever driven cross-country, that is a really long journey. And they are given provisions throughout that journey and, you know, allowed to use the restroom and the rest. But it is long. And when they get here, they’re exhausted. And what I have found in talking to them is that some of them do know where they’re going. They wanted to come to D.C., they wanted to go to New York. Others are a little more confused and may not understand how big the U.S. is. I mean, there are some cases of people who come to D.C. and maybe they wanted to be in Texas, but they didn’t realize they were already there or they didn’t realize how far do you see us from the city they wanted to get to? So it’s really a mixed bag, depending on who you talk to. But what sort of the irony sometimes that bubbles up in this is that some are just happy for the ride. They don’t have money. So this is in some respects a free ride to the city where they wanted to go to or use to connect to another place.
Like they see this as this can be the start of the next part of my journey, wherever that may be.
Overnight, a Texas sheriff has opened an investigation into how 48 Venezuelan migrants – legal – were flown from his state to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
So we’ve been seeing this since the spring when Texas Governor Greg Abbott decided to start sending migrants. But it really escalated when we suddenly saw two planes arrive in Martha’s Vineyard with nearly 50 migrants on them.
So, Priscilla, you mentioned two planes full of migrants landing on Martha’s Vineyard, which we should remind folks is very much an island off of Massachusetts. Who sent them and how did they get there?
There was an element of surprise here.
An estimated 50 migrants arrived on the island Wednesday afternoon. Local officials were not notified ahead of time.
It was not known that these flights were going to arrive in Martha’s Vineyard. And when they did, there was a mad scramble to try to accommodate the minors that did arrive.
My heart breaks for them because they were not the first priority. They’re in my heart forever. I don’t know what to say.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
They were hungry, homeless. They had no no opportunity at all. The state of Florida – it was volunteer – offered transport to sanctuary jurisdictions.
And over the course of those hours, we learned that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claimed credit for that. These were flights that originated from Texas, and he said that he had sent these flights to Martha’s Vineyard.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
There were more Acela corporate journalists in Martha’s Vineyard today than have ever gone down to the southern border to look what’s going on. Why don’t you go down there and look what some of those communities have to deal with every day?
So just another Republican governor jumping into the mix and sending migrants out of state, but this time sending them from Texas, not migrants who had even been in Florida.
Oh, so the migrants were originally in Texas, not Florida.
That’s our understanding. This was a curious situation, of course, because we were talking about a flight from Texas and while a Florida governor was claiming credit for it. But these, from our understanding, were not migrants that were in Florida. Rather, they had crossed had been in Texas. And it was the governor who was sending them over to Martha’s Vineyard. The governor from Florida, of course.
And what do we know about the circumstances of this trip? Like what were they promised in Texas then would be on the other side of this flight?
We’re learning more and more about some of what migrants had been told who had gotten on this flight. And it has caused a lot of concern among attorneys and groups who have worked with them, because they say some migrants had brochures that promised certain services, medical services, jobs, you name it.
Juan Paolo Mora and other immigrants we spoke to here say they were promised all sorts of things, including jobs and housing, things that never materialized.
(translating) We were told it was humanitarian aid by a foundation that in this case remains unknown, he says.
But those services are for refugees, not for asylum seekers, which is what these people are. And just to step back –
Yeah what’s the difference?
Yeah. Refugees apply for protection abroad, whereas asylum seekers apply within the United States. Refugees, well, first of all, come through the U.S. refugee admissions program and are afforded a certain number of benefits when they are here in the U.S.. Asylum seekers generally don’t get those benefits until they are granted asylum, a process that can take a very long time. So attorneys say that these brochures for those that had them were misleading because it made them believe they were going to be eligible for services that they, in fact, may not be eligible for. We also learned in lawsuits that some were offered gift cards to McDonald’s to sort of get their trust and then eventually go on these flights.
They did get a packet that had the map of Martha’s Vineyard. And they’re also treated, you know, very well with all this. I mean.
DeSantis responded to the lawsuit that’s been filed and in a statement to DeSantis fired back and said that these flights were voluntary and that ultimately these were individuals taking advantage of flights to Martha’s Vineyard.
Okay. So if they were lured, though, under any kind of false pretenses, could DeSanits get in trouble? Like what are the possible criminal ramifications here?
We don’t know yet, but Bexar County sheriff has said that they are investigating. A source familiar with discussions tells me that the Department of Justice lawyers and Department of Homeland Security lawyers have been discussing litigation options against the movement of migrants out of state by Republican governors. So as far as what is going to happen in the legal space here, that is all still playing out while in the meantime, these governors are seizing more busses or in the case of DeSantis, potentially more flights.
Wow. So this all seems extremely disorienting and confusing for any migrants, you know, caught in the middle of this, just trying to figure out where they’re going to, you know, get their next meal or sleep. But do governors like Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott have a point like you’ve been to some of these border towns? Are they really overwhelmed like the Republicans claim.
They are. As you mentioned, I have spent the last several months going and bouncing around to a lot of different border towns and they are overwhelmed.
Past midnight here in Yuma, there’s already been more than 800 migrants who have come here to turn themselves….
I recently went to Yuma, Arizona. That’s it’s right along the Arizona Mexico border. And my team and I stayed there from midnight to five in the morning just because of the heat of the summer. Most people cross during those overnight hours. What we saw was dozens and dozens of people from Venezuela, from Cuba, from Peru, from Colombia, just coming in droves as they waited and then surrendering to Border Patrol agents. So what they would do is they would cross the border. They would cross, in some cases, a river, and they would line up along the border wall in the dead of night. Waiting under bright lights as Border Patrol agents process them one by one and took them into custody.
And during that time I talked to them.
And in many cases, they describe some of the deteriorating conditions in their country in trouble.
The treatment the government has with the Cuban people, they oppress us so much, and I want to change that for myself.
Hoping that here in the United States they would get that claim of asylum, which will take time and a judge will decide, but hoping in large part for a better future.
And what do you expect from living here in the U.S.?
Well, I want to change my life and better politics and all of that..
There are shelters that are already in place in many of these cities to accommodate and help migrants as they are released from custody. But over the last year, that has become more difficult and they’re under strain because there’s more people. The other important thing to note here is who it is that is crossing. So we have seen over the last year an increase in three nationalities, in particular Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. Since last August, there has been 175% increase in the number of people crossing from those countries at the US-Mexico border. Now, these are very tricky populations for any administration to deal with because the United States has frosty relations with, for example, Venezuela and Cuba. So we can’t necessarily remove them. There’s also limitations to that pandemic restrictions that we talked about before that allows authorities to turn people away at the border. Mexico is not accepting all populations. So there are some limitations there as well. So what happens is as we see more people from these countries arrive at the border, they’re often processed and released as they go through their immigration proceedings. So it’s not unusual for migrants who, again, are in many cases are seeking asylum to move about the country. What has happened here is that we’re seeing more people. The border shelters are being overwhelmed and these Republican governors are sort of seizing on this to move them out of their state and take them to these Democratic led cities.
Priscilla, thanks very much for stopping by, appreciate it.
One Thing is a production of CNN Audio. This episode was produced by Paola Ortiz and me, David Rind. Matt Dempsey is our production manager. Greg Peppers is our supervising producer. Faiz Jamil is our senior producer and the executive producer of CNN Audio is Megan Marcus. Special thanks this week to Xavier Lopez and thank you for listening. If you like the show, leave a rating and review, tell a friend. It all helps. We’ll be back next Sunday. Talk to you then.