By Todd Bensman
Summary: A little-known part of the Biden administration’s CBP One parole program permits inadmissible aliens to make an appointment to fly directly to airports in the interior of the United States, bypassing the border altogether. Partial data on the program, just obtained by the Center for immigration Studies pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that more than 200,000 people from four countries have used this direct-flight and parole program over the past year.
In January, President Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security began implementing the cornerstone of its current Southwest Border management strategy: a series of new “lawful pathways” measures designed to decrease the historically high monthly “encounter” statistics of illegally crossing immigrants and to thin their mass congregations before they become a political problem.
For one of the more publicized measures, DHS cajoles tens of thousands of intending illegal border-crossers per month to instead go on the CBP One smartphone application, and make an appointment with U.S. officials at land ports of entry instead of crossing illegally. After making an appointment, DHS invites these inadmissible aliens to walk over to the American side at the land ports, where U.S. Customs officials quickly “parole” them in, allowing them to travel to a city of their choice in the nation’s interior.
But one of the least noticed, mysterious, and potentially the most controversial of the new rechanneling programs that use the CBP One app allows migrants to take commercial passenger flights from foreign countries straight to their American cities of choice, flying right over the border — and even over Mexico. For this measure, Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Haitians, and Colombians — while they are still in countries south of Mexico — request “advance travel authorizations” through the same CBP One mobile app and take commercial flights (“at their own expense”) directly into U.S. airports, where U.S. Customs officers parole them into the nation, sight unseen, and in numbers publicly unknown.
Biden officials have rarely, if ever, spoken of this “family unification” flight program in the year since implementing it, perhaps mindful of the political outcry over the late-night “ghost flights” that DHS stealthily arranges to ferry migrant children into various airports, and mindful, too, of strong recent political backlash in large U.S. cities like New York and Chicago to paroled migrants busing themselves in from the border. Here, migrants flying directly into America go uncounted in the monthly Border Patrol tallies, unnoticed, and without media inquiry, virtually all information about it almost hermetically sealed.
But records obtained by the Center for Immigration Studies as part of ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show these migrant flights have brought significant numbers of migrants into U.S. cities over most of the past year. (See the Excel files for “Parole Arrivals” for Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.)
The records show that between late October 2022 and mid-September 2023, the administration approved a total of 221,456 Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans, and Nicaraguans for “travel mode: air” into still-unspecified interior U.S. ports.
Government policy requires that migrants “approved for travel” must pay for their own tickets: “If approved, the beneficiary is responsible for securing their own travel via commercial air to an interior POE [port of entry],” according to language typical in the relevant Federal Register notices.
The Biden administration did not release the numbers or receiving airports for Colombians or Ukrainians approved to use the direct-flight parole program, which portends much higher total numbers approved to fly in. More recently, the administration added Hondurans, El Salvadorans, and Guatemalans to the direct-flight family reunification program, and their numbers also remain unknown…