Uphill battle for Martha’s Vineyard migrants seeking asylum

BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. — Dozens of migrants who arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in private planes Wednesday will need to be granted asylum to legally remain in the United States.

An asylum is a form of protection available for people who are being persecuted or have safety concerns in their home country. Data from TRAC immigration shows most asylum seekers are denied. In 2020, the asylum was granted just 26.3 percent of the time.

The migrants on the Vineyard have been allowed to remain in the U.S. while their cases are decided.

It’s common for asylum seekers to be released on a promise to appear in Federal immigration court. They are allowed to travel freely but must register an address.

“They would have been given paperwork that has a date and a time to appear in immigration court and that could be several months away,” said Framingham immigration attorney Kevin Leeper.

Leeper described the process to investigative reporter Ted Daniel.

Leeper said there could be logistical issues with the migrants being sent to Martha’s Vineyard. Several said they were initially detained in Texas and that is where their hearings would have been scheduled.

“From the humanitarian side, I’m sure the people in the state of Massachusetts have a very big heart. But when it comes down to the legal aspect of this. There are certain things that need to be done at certain times and that’s going to be very difficult,” he said.

Leeper said the cases could be moved to Massachusetts, but it would require the applicant to make a formal request for a change of venue.

Lawyers for Civil Rights announced that it has mobilized a rapid response team to address the immigration situation on the Vineyard. The organization said, “We are ensuring that their immediate legal needs are met while exploring all available options to fight back against those who use vulnerable human beings as political pawns.”

If a migrant is denied asylum, they can be subject to a deportation order.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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