Fact Focus: Biden falsely accused of secret flights for hundreds of thousands of immigrants

Mar 6, 2024, 3:56 PM

FILE - President Joe Biden walks out of the White House to board Marine One on the South Lawn in Wa...

FILE - President Joe Biden walks out of the White House to board Marine One on the South Lawn in Washington, Jan. 12, 2024. In his victory speech Tuesday, March 5, 2024 former president Donald Trump echoed false statements that the Biden administration has secretly flown hundreds of thousands of foreigners to the United States. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — In his Super Tuesday victory speech, former President Donald Trump elevated false information that had gone viral on social media, claiming the Biden administration secretly flew hundreds of thousands of migrants into the United States.

Many post sharing the claim referred to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for immigration restrictions. It said the administration refused to list individual airports where people arrived under a Biden “parole” program that allows Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans to stay in the U.S. for two years.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection each month publishes the number of migrants admitted under the program by nationality. This information is available on its website and in press releases. It does not list arriving airports.

Trump said during his speech, “Today it was announced that 325,000 people were flown in from parts unknown – migrants were flown in airplane, not going through borders … It was unbelievable. I said that must be a mistake. They flew 325,000 migrants. Flew them in over the borders and into our country.”

But migrants are not being flown into the U.S. randomly. Under a Biden policy in effect since January 2023, up to 30,000 people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela can enter the country monthly if they apply online with a financial sponsor and arrive at a specified airport, paying their own way. Biden exercised his “parole” authority, which, under a 1952 law, allows him to admit people “only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”

Here’s a closer look. CLAIM: The Biden administration has secretly flown more than 300,000 unvetted migrants into the country.

THE FACTS: An article published on Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies examined a major example of how Biden has exercised his parole authority for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans.

Each month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection discloses how many people from these four countries were allowed to enter the country. On Jan. 26, the agency reported 327,000 were vetted and authorized for travel. There were more than 67,000 Cubans, 126,000 Haitians, 53,000 Nicaraguans and 81,000 Venezuelans.

The Center for Immigration Studies article says CBP approved flights that brought 320,000 to the United States last year. The author, Todd Bensman, learned they came to 43 airports but the government refused to divulge which ones, citing an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act for law enforcement-sensitive information.

Bensman said Wednesday that he doesn’t consider the program secretive, but finds it “enigmatic” and lacking in transparency.”

The migrants are not coming in from “parts unknown,” as Trump charged. CBP vets each one for eligibility and publishes the number of airport arrivals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Social media posts, including one by Elon Musk’s, charge that the administration is doing this to bring in voters.

But people admitted into the country under parole have no path to citizenship. They can obtain work permits for a limited time but voters must be U.S. citizens.

Biden has exercised parole authority far more than any of his predecessors, which Trump calls “an outrageous abuse” that he will end if returned to the White House. Biden has granted entry — by land or air — to at least 1 million people using parole, not just the 327,000 who flew from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua or Venezuela though December.

Angelo Fernández Hernández, a White House spokesperson, said Wednesday that reports of secretly flying people into the country were “categorically false” and that Cubans, Haitian, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans were “thoroughly screened.”

The Trump campaign and Musk representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

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Fact Focus: Biden falsely accused of secret flights for hundreds of thousands of immigrants