BBefore boarding planes bound for Martha’s Vineyard, a group of about 50 immigrants in San Antonio, Texas, received a trifold brochure entitled “Benefits for Massachusetts Refugees.”
The cover included a photograph of a Massachusetts Department of Transportation highway sign that said “Massachusetts welcomes you” above an illustration of the state.
On the back, printed in English and Spanish, was the name, phone number and website of the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants, a state agency that helps resettlement agencies and works with community groups to provide assistance to newly arrived refugees.
But the agency had nothing to do with the pamphlet. The pamphlet was simulated to look like a government document, falsely suggesting that the group of primarily Venezuelan people seeking asylum in the US would be eligible for cash assistance, housing, food, job training, job interviews and other benefits.
“These leaflets are not ours and I’m not sure who prints or distributes them at this point,” said Chief of Staff Falah Hashem. The Independent.
The brochure suggested that passengers would be eligible – if they contact the agency and other community and religious groups listed in the brochure – for up to eight months of financial assistance, help with enrolling their children in schools and furnishing their homes. , which they would also get help finding.
Immigration Lawyer Matt Cameron said Popular Informationwhich first reported in the leaflets, that migrants who boarded the planes “absolutely have no access to cash, housing and other resettlement benefits”.
The brochures were obtained by Lawyers for Civil Rights, a Boston-area legal group representing 30 immigrants who were among the group sent from Texas to the small island off the coast of Massachusetts last week.
On Friday, after spending two nights at a local church with support from various community groups and state and local agencies, the group was transferred to a larger shelter operation on Cape Cod. There, they received separate rooms, medical care and legal assistance.
In letters to U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Civil Rights Attorneys argued that “individuals, working in conjunction with the Governor of Florida, have made numerous false promises to our clients, including job opportunities , schooling for their children and immigration assistance in order to induce them to travel”.
Passengers were told the plane would land on Martha’s Vineyard, not Boston, only when the flight was in the air, according to Executive Director Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal and Director of Litigation Oren Sellstrom.
“After the planes landed, those who tricked our customers into traveling under these false pretenses disappeared, letting our customers know that the assistance offers were all a ruse to exploit them for political ends,” they wrote.
Many of the group’s customers were kept in hotels until flights were filled and booked, according to lawyers.
“This type of conspiracy to deprive our clients of their liberty and civil rights and to interfere with federal immigration procedures must be thoroughly investigated for violations of criminal law,” they wrote.
On September 19, the sheriff of Bexas County, Texas, announced that his office had opened an investigation into whether migrants were “pulled” onto planes and “ended up fending for themselves” in Massachusetts.
Much remains unclear about the journey of migrants from Texas to Massachusetts, how Florida officials are identifying and collecting migrants in other states to be sent to so-called “sanctuary” states and cities, and how state funding earmarked for Governor Ron DeSantis is paying for it from several states away.
The Florida Department of Transportation paid Oregon-based aviation company Vertol Systems Company $615,000 on Sept. 8, according to state records.
The reason: “UNAUTHORIZED ALIEN RELOCATION PROGRAM”.
A week later, the group of migrants was flown from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, for which Florida Governor Ron DeSantis received credit and defended — as part of a $12 million operation to remove migrants from the state. As of Monday, the Vertol Systems Company website was no longer operational.
Requests for comments from The Independent – including how the company uses state funds – were not returned.
After the economic and political collapse, shortages of medicine and food, and violence in Venezuela, millions of people fled.
The number of Venezuelans seeking to enter the US has steadily increased in recent years. In July, US Customs and Border Protection officials reported that encounters with Venezuelan migrants reached more than 17,000, triple the number reported a month earlier.
“Failed” regimes in Venezuela, as well as Cuba and Nicaragua, “are driving a new wave of migration across the Western Hemisphere, including the recent increase in encounters on the US Southwest border.” according to a statement from US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus.
Meanwhile, Republican governors in Arizona, Florida and Texas busloaded thousands of immigrants from outside their states, spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to do so, in protest of what they characterized as the “open borders” agenda. of President Joe Biden.
After arriving at the border and surrendering to the authorities, migrants seeking asylum must undergo “credible fear screening” to determine whether their return to their home countries could expose them to further persecution or threats. After a screening, they are released pending a hearing for their asylum case.
It was at this point, near the San Antonio Migrant Resource Center, that the group of migrants targeted by people ostensibly working through Governor DeSantis’s operation was sent to Massachusetts.
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Disrupting an already complicated asylum process, sending people 2,000 miles from where these claims began, could bring more chaos to migrants’ lives, lawyers and immigration advocates said. The Independent Last week.
After Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s recent flights and buses to cities across the US, San Antonio has advised immigrants to “not accept rides or any other assistance from strangers” outside of downtown.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, the country’s largest Latino civil rights organization, is circulating “Wanted” flyers in the city to seek information on a woman who several immigrants said tricked them with false promises of employment and help.
The organization has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to his “identification, arrest and conviction”.
The group said she is wanted for “aiding and abetting a conspiracy to make innocent refugees commit crimes by offering work” without legal work permits, “lying and deceiving” while being used as “political support” and “fraud and possible civil crimes”. rights violations”.
Eduardo Linares told the texas tribune that he was promised help with rent and employment, and “that was the only option we had left”. He eventually declined the offer.
“She promised them they would receive three months of paid work,” said the group’s national president, Domingo Garcia, said The Washington Post. “According to immigration law, they are here on parole. They have a cut-off date. It is illegal for them to work. So she’s enticing them to work, which is a federal offense. She is enticing them to break the law.”
Governor DeSantis’s administration has repeatedly defended the program, telling reporters last week that it intends to “deplete” the $12 million earmarked for the cause.
“I was given $12 million for us to use, and we are going to use it,” he said on Friday. “And you will see more and more.”