Flight to Massachussetts could add problems for asylum seekers

Migrants must notify immigration court or officer of address changes

An immigration attorney explains the challenges migrants face when seeking asylum.

SAN ANTONIO – In general, migrants that cross the border and give themselves up to Border Patrol can seek asylum.

After they are processed, they’re handed a manila envelope that contains important documents needed to plead their case for asylum.

“I’d say the basic fundamentals of the asylum cases (is) the Notice to Appear being filed with the court,” Christopher Alonso said.

Alonso is an immigration attorney at Alonso & Alonso Attorneys at Law.

The Notice to Appear document is issued by the Department of Homeland Security and includes the date of when a migrant must report themselves to an immigration court. Oftentimes, migrants are given an average of 14 days to appear after they are released from the custody of Border Patrol.

“That (document is) what establishes the jurisdiction over that individual, the court’s jurisdiction,” Alonso said.

A migrant could have dire consequences, especially if they end up in a different city or state than the one originally provided to immigration authorities, much like the group flown to Martha’s Vineyard.

Alonso said filing a change of address is a common request by migrants. However, he fears ICE was likely not made aware of changes.

“(The migrants) may not have been advised of (the necessary steps) properly, because they would have to file the change of address form with the immigration court or with the reporting officer,” Alonso said. “Now, they may have an order of deportation in absentia. That means they never showed up (to the immigration court).”

Migrants are also provided with a list of pro bono legal service providers based on the address provided to immigration officers.

“(Florida’s governor) didn’t give (migrants) a new nonprofit list,” Alonso said. “They didn’t give them a new way to seek assistance.”

Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis took credit for the flight.

And while their case could be reopened, Alonso said it would be a long process, especially when pro bono legal service providers are already saturated with immigration cases.

“Nonprofits in the area (of Massachusetts and) just here (in San Antonio) alone have a huge waiting list just to be able to speak somebody,” Alonso said.

According to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation into who was behind the recruitment of nearly 50 migrants in San Antonio to be flown on a charter plane to Florida and Massachusetts is ongoing. A public information officer with the agency said their investigators are working with the attorneys representing the migrants to obtain the affidavits and verify what charges may have been violated in Bexar County.

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About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.