Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is repeating a misleading claim that migrants are not given free transportation and travel at the southern border courtesy of the U.S. government — as it seeks to tackle misinformation being spread by smugglers.
“Claims that migrants will be provided free travel and transportation to their destination are false,”CBP said in a tweet. “The U.S. government does not provide help or financial support for noncitizens.”
The notice is similar to previous notices put out by the U.S. government. The claim that the U.S. is not directly providing financial assistance and/or free transportation to migrants is technically true. Adult migrants who are encountered by Border Patrol are processed and released into the U.S. and are not given money or transport directly by the U.S. government. A key exception is unaccompanied children (UAC), who are often transported to sponsors — typically a parent or relative already in the U.S. — across the country after they have been transferred from Border Patrol to the care of Health and Human Services (HHS).
However, the tweet also leaves out the close cooperation between the U.S. government and non-governmental organizations. Migrants are often released directly to NGOs who help migrants reach their destination, including by helping them with transport, and who are given funding by the federal government.
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That funding comes via awards from the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which “provides support to organizations for their work providing food, shelter, and services to individuals and families encountered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who entered through the Southwestern Border and who are now awaiting their immigration court proceedings.”
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In May, DHS announced $332.5 million in funding through the program on top of $71 million in December “to assist communities receiving noncitizens released from custody as they await the outcome of their immigration proceedings.” That money includes funding to local governments as well as NGOs. Those grants allow for services that include food, shelter and transportation to migrants’ final destinations.
A Government Accountability Office report from April looked at the issue and found that non-profits provide services including food, clothing, COVID-19 testing, transportation to airports or bus stations, and assistance with booking travel to other locations in the U.S.
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An analysis of $10 million worth of reimbursements from the program in FY21 found that the majority of that was spent on food and shelter, with transportation making up about 10% of that amount.
“Transportation services include payments made to arrange transportation for noncitizens. This category includes local transportation, such as to a nearby airport, and long-distance transportation, such as to another city or state within the U.S.,” the report said.
However, it spoke to three nonprofits who, according to the report, “said that, in most cases, the noncitizens they serve pay for their own travel to their final destinations within the interior of the U.S.”
Additionally, some states such as Texas and Arizona have been providing their own forms of free transport to migrants who wish to travel to “sanctuary cities” such as New York, Washington D.C., Denver and Chicago.
The tweet by CBP comes as DHS has continued to try and thwart some misinformation being spread by smugglers in order to entice migrants to purchase their services and make the dangerous journey north, often only to be exploited by the cartels even after they arrive.
The administration has repeatedly urged migrants to avail themselves of legal asylum pathways, which have been dramatically expanded under the administration. There are some indications that that strategy may be working, with officials touting a 70% drop in migrant encounters from the 10,000+ a day being seen in the days before the end of the Title 42 public health order on May 11, down to just 3,000 a day in recent days, according to officials.
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