WASHINGTON D.C. (Nexstar) — As both praise and backlash grow over Governor Greg Abbott’s initiative to bus migrants out East, questions loom as to who these immigrants are and what happens to them next.
Residents in Martha’s Vineyard, a Massachusetts island, welcomed roughly 50 migrants who were dropped off Thursday after boarding a plane chartered by the state of Florida. On the same day, Texas sent two bus-loads of immigrants to the steps of Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in D.C.
One woman from Venezuela told reporters in Martha’s Vineyard that she was told they would arrive in Boston. She spoke, in Spanish, about uncertainty of what will come next — translating in English to “We still don’t know our destiny. If we are gonna stay here, if we are going to leave, we don’t know,” she said.
It’s unclear if the state of Florida is following Texas’ lead on giving migrants consent forms to fill out, before being transported. Texas has Spanish versions of the form, specifying that the individual agrees to take state transportation to either New York City or Washington D.C.
Nexstar reached out to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office for clarification on how the migrants are being recruited and whether they are signing similar consent forms. We did not receive a response.
In April, Abbott began sending busloads of migrants outside of the state in April, saying it will ease the burden of immigration on Texas cities.
Immigration advocates have slammed efforts by both Florida and Texas governors, calling it a “political stunt.”
“Shame on you, Governor Abbott. Shame on you, Governor DeSantis,” LULAC president Domingo García said during a Thursday press conference. “They were just literally dumped like human garbage in front of the Vice President’s house.”
Texas Republicans are doubling down on the legality of their initiative. In a Friday interview on Fox News Channel, Attorney General Ken Paxton said what the Lone Star State is doing is “completely legal.”
“We have the right to send these people out if we want to,” Paxton told Fox News Channel. “Now what the president is doing by letting people come here illegally? That is illegal.”
Immigration experts say it is hard to know for certain how each of these immigrants came into the United States. But once they are processed by the federal government, migrants can stay in America while they wait for a court date to further decide their immigration status.
Julia Gelatt, senior policy analyst and the Migration Policy Institute, said the immigrants being bused and flown around the country would’ve had to be processed by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol — making rhetoric referring them as “illegals” inaccurate.
“Some of them already have a notice to appear in immigration court. Some of them have a piece of paper telling them to check in with the government,” she said. “So they’ve been released into the United States into border communities. And that’s where they connected with the buses or the planes and were moved from there.”
Backlogs for migrants waiting for a court date can take years, and upward of seven years for those seeking asylum.
“Many of them are fleeing really difficult and dangerous situations and might ultimately win their asylum claims,” she said. “If we were to reform our immigration laws and have more legal pathways for people to come, there wouldn’t be so many people coming to the border, coming without authorization without advanced permission. Congress is really the one that could reform our immigration laws.”