Scroll Top

You are currently viewing the website in language EN. For additional fact-checks and content pertaining to other communities, please use the flag icons to switch languages.

High-profile accounts spread baseless claims of ‘secret’ migrant flights to US

High-profile accounts spread baseless claims of 'secret' migrant flights to US - Featured image

Author(s): Natalie WADE / AFP USA

Social media posts are repeating a far-right conspiracy theory that President Joe Biden is “secretly” enabling unvetted migrants to enter the United States. The claims are unfounded; the flights are part of a publicly announced migrant parole program that admits people on a temporary basis after background checks, with no direct path to citizenship or voting rights.

The claim of a secret program was amplified by X’s CEO Elon Musk in a March 5, 2024 post sharing an article from Britain’s Daily Mail. Musk added in a comment: “This administration is both importing voters and creating a national security threat from unvetted illegal immigrants. It is highly probable that the groundwork is being laid for something far worse than 9/11. Just a matter of time.”

Screenshot of an X post taken March, 12 2024

Similar false and misleading claims spread elsewhere on X, Instagram and by outlets including Fox, and Newsmax. It was also amplified by former president Donald Trump, who made misleading remarks during his Super Tuesday victory speech (archived here), and by Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a former Trump spokesperson.

A surge of crossings at the US-Mexico border has made migration a defining issue of the 2024 presidential election, with Trump and other Republicans blaming Biden for the problem.

The latest claims stem from a report (archived here), by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a group that supports stricter immigration policy. It is based on information the group obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (archived here) filed against US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The CIS claims that more than 320,000 migrants took “secretive flights” into the United States in 2023 by receiving authorization through the CBP-One mobile app (archived here).

Although this statistic does represent the number of migrants permitted entry via a humanitarian parole program, many of the online claims surrounding it are false, said a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson, White House spokesperson and an independent expert.

Not a secret

“The CHNV parole processes are public; claims of a secret program are false,” a DHS spokesperson told AFP in a March 12, 2024 email.

In 2023, Biden exercised presidential parole authority (archived here), expanding a program for migrants — allowing up to 30,000 people per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to stay in the US for two years.

According to the report, the CBP did not disclose the airports where migrants arrive. However, the agency releases monthly statistics highlighting how many people from these countries were allowed to enter the US (archived here). Through the end of January 2024, over 357,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans arrived lawfully and were granted parole since Biden authorized the program — 30,000 more than the number reported in December 2023 (archived here).

The program was announced by Biden (archived here),  DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (archived here) and published on the DHS website on January 5, 2023 (archived here).

Migrants vetted

In addition to undergoing background checks, participants must have sponsors in the US and meet other eligibility criteria, the DHS spokesperson said.

White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández also addressed claims that migrants are unvetted in a March 6, 2024 X post, describing them as “categorically false,” (archived here).

“Working within its authorities, the Admin has expanded lawful pathways for orderly and humane migration. Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans have a US sponsor and are thoroughly screened before being authorized to travel to the US,” he said.

Additionally, the United States is not responsible for a migrant’s travel costs, nor is it guaranteed they will be allowed to stay. They could be denied parole after arriving at an official point of entry, for a variety of reasons, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (archived here).

The CIS report also conflates Biden’s policy with family reunification parole. But Colleen Putzel-Kavanaugh, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute said these two programs are “very separate.”

Family reunification parole is available by invitation only to approved petitioners from select countries (archived here). Several parole programs allow individuals to enter and live in the United States for a temporary period, “and we think that what gets confusing is that app is used for multiple different programs for multiple different reasons,” she said.

Non-citizens cannot vote

Putzel-Kavanaugh agreed it would “not be fair to call any of these flights secret.” Nor does it allow parolees to vote, as they are not naturalized citizens, she told AFP on March 12.

Although they can obtain work permits for a limited time, “for the parole program, there is no pathway to citizenship right now,” she said.

Read more of AFP’s reporting on misinformation surrounding migration here.

Fact Checker Logo
Originally published here.