Immigration lawyers sent to Martha’s Vineyard to investigate source of pamphlets they believe were distributed under ‘false pretenses’


Lawyers for many of the nearly 50 immigrants who landed unexpectedly on Martha’s Vineyard said Monday that the pamphlets sent to their clients were “highly misleading” and “used to induce (their) clients to assume they could. Get (relocation) support to travel under the guise.”

The booklet lists refugee services, including resources such as cash and housing assistance, clothing, transportation to a job interview, job training and helping children enroll in school.

A Venezuelan immigrant who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, concerned about the negative impact on his immigration case, shared images of the booklet. They said immigrants were told the booklet had information about the assistance they would receive in Massachusetts, but they were not told about the differences in programs for refugees and asylum seekers.

Immigrant tells CNN what he was promised on the plane

In many cases, migrants are asylum seekers, not refugees. Refugees apply for protection overseas and are admitted through the Refugee Admissions Program, while asylum seekers apply within the United States.

Local officials believe asylum seekers from Venezuela arrived on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, having flown in from Texas on the arrangement of Florida’s governor. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, who is up for re-election this year, said he wanted to draw attention to the border crisis. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott – another Republican running for re-election – sent thousands of immigrants to New York and Washington D.C. over the summer to underscore his support for the Biden administration on immigration Criticism of the policy.

DeSantis’ move was strongly condemned by the White House, Democratic officials and immigration lawyers, who said immigrants were misled about their final destination.

At a Friday news conference, DeSantis said everyone had signed a waiver and knew where they were going. “Obviously, that’s where they’re going,” he said, adding, “It’s all voluntary.”

The booklet, which has now been posted online by legal groups representing many of the cases, features what appears to be a photo of a road sign that reads “Massachusetts Welcomes You” and a humble photo of a lighthouse. It also outlines, in English and Spanish, what resettlement agencies can do for refugees.

The booklet also lists the phone number of the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigration, which told CNN it was not a document released by their office.

The booklet has been published online by legal groups representing many cases.

The front includes a photo of Massachusetts and a list of at least one community service agency located on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod.

The list includes the phone number for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services – the service that eventually took immigrants and helped them find their original home in a church on the island.

Oren Sellstrom, director of litigation at the Boston-based civil rights law firm that represents many immigrants, said his clients leave Texas expecting, after they land, to wait for all the things they advertise in their brochures. content.

Lawyers are investigating where the pamphlets came from, when they were given to immigrants and why, according to the group.

DeSantis again defended sending immigrants to Massachusetts in an interview with Fox News Monday night, saying: “The vendor who did it for Florida gave them a small package with a map of Martha’s Vineyard. … It has numbers for the different services in Martha’s Vineyard, and then it has numbers for the overall agency in Massachusetts that deals with immigration and refugee matters.”

It is unclear whether he cited the booklet in question.

Two of the immigrants previously told CNN that while they were in San Antonio, they decided to keep traveling because two women and a man approached them on the street near the Resource Immigration Center.

One of the migrants, Wilmer Villazana, said he was placed in a hotel for five days before his flight and was well looked after. The women told him they were from Orlando and worked for private organizations that raised money to help immigrants, Villazana said.

“The types of programs discussed here would generally not apply to any immigrant,” Sellstrom explained. “It was highly misleading in the sense that it was used to induce our customers to travel under the guise of providing this support, when in fact the type of program was highly specific.”

Most immigrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard are processed by federal authorities and will go through an immigration process that culminates in an immigration judge deciding whether they can remain in the United States. Given their status as asylum seekers rather than refugees, they may not be eligible for the benefits listed in the brochure.

Refugees are eligible for benefits through the federal government, including cash assistance and medical assistance. Generally, asylum seekers are not eligible for federally funded benefits, although they may receive some assistance once granted asylum.

The immigrants continued to receive humanitarian services at Joint Base Cape Cod after the Republican governor of Massachusetts. Charlie Baker’s office voluntarily transported them there, mobilizing more than 100 National Guard troops to their fullest.

U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachel Rollins told reporters Thursday that she will work with members of the Justice Department over Gov. DeSantis to send immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

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