Fact Check: Trump claims 325,000 migrants ‘were flown in from parts unknown’

In remarks Tuesday night, former President Donald Trump said, “It was announced that 325,000 people were flown in from parts unknown. Migrants were flown in — airplane — not going through borders, not going through that great Texas barrier.”

Facts First: This is misleading.

Trump appeared to be citing a new report released by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports curbing immigration to the United States. In a March 4 piece, Todd Bensman, a senior national security fellow at CIS, outlined information he says he obtained through a FOIA lawsuit, stating that that US Customs and Border Protection “approved secretive flights” that brought 320,000 migrants to select airports in the US last year.

CBP, though, did not facilitate the flights, and the program by which the migrants entered the United States is public information, not secretive. The article also omits who is being flown within or to the United States: migrants who are approved and vetted.

Migrants who flew to and within the United States were allowed entry and thoroughly vetted through CBP One — a mobile app that allows users to schedule appointments to claim asylum with border authorities.

There are also multiple parole programs that allow individuals to enter and live in the United States for a temporary period, typically no longer than a year. These programs include family reunification, which is available on a case-by-case basis and by invitation only as well as a separate humanitarian parole program for migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. After receiving approval, such migrants may enter the US through a land port of entry or fly into the US, but they are responsible for paying for their own flights.

In January, for example, CBP processed around 45,000 individuals through CBP One appointments at ports of entry, according to federal data.

Since the parole program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans (CHNV) was introduced more than a year ago, over 386,000 people of those nationalities have arrived. In addition to vetting, those who enter the US under that parole program are also required to have sponsors in the US. The purpose of the program is to keep people from crossing the border illegally by providing a legal pathway to the US.

It’s unclear how CIS reached the 320,000 figure, which the group attributes to information received via its lawsuit. The article says the government characterizes the programs as family reunification programs.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland security told CNN, “More than 14 months ago, on January 5, 2023, DHS announced processes providing certain Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans who have a supporter in the United States, undergo and clear robust security vetting, and meet other eligibility criteria, to come to the United States in a safe, orderly, and lawful way. These processes were built on the success of the process for Venezuelans.”

“These processes are part of the Administration’s strategy to combine expanded lawful pathways with stronger consequences to reduce irregular migration, and have kept hundreds of thousands of people from migrating irregularly. The CHNV parole processes are public; claims of a secret program are false,” the spokesperson added.

The CIS article says the government told it that disclosing information about the airports involved could create “operational vulnerabilities” at those airports, saying that sharing operational details would open up the program to exploitation by “bad actors.” Although the CIS article calls the government’s position “novel and newsworthy,” the government’s response is standard for inquiries involving law enforcement.

Republicans have slammed the Biden administration’s use of parole – which has been used by many administrations – arguing that officials are using the authority too broadly.

The Biden administration has leaned on parole in urgent situations, including to admit Afghans after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ukrainians after Russia’s invasion, and other times, to allow migrants from designated countries to temporarily live and work in the US as a way to mitigate surges at the border.

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