Border Airports Among Fastest-Growing In U.S., Could Suggest Scale Of Migrant Flights In 2021

As coronavirus restrictions locked down much of the country in 2021, two groups filled the skies: illegal immigrants from border towns to the interior, and wealthy elites to vacation hideaways, data shows.
Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

The number of people boarding flights from airports in Texas’s illegal immigration hot-zone skyrocketed in 2021 even as business plummeted at almost all other airports because of the coronavirus pandemic, a Daily Wire review of newly released Federal Aviation Administration data found.

The records as analyzed present a pattern that could suggest the scale at which the Biden administration and federally-supported charities have been moving illegal immigrants around the country.

Despite a surge in airline traffic of more than 80% when compared to 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions imposed in response to it, total air travel was still down nearly 30% from pre-pandemic levels in 2021 with most airports. Los Angeles International Airport saw 19 million fewer passengers board compared to 2019. The Atlanta airport, San Francisco airport, and New York’s JFK all saw about 16 million fewer people board outbound flights.

While the vast majority of airports lost passengers from 2019 to 2021, among the 22 airports that grew the fastest were those in the Rio Grande Valley that play a key role in the federal government’s migrant-moving operation: Brownsville, McAllen, Harlingen, and Laredo. The number of passengers boarding flights out of those airports rose from 978,000 in 2019 to 1,110,000 in 2021.

But even that 132,000-person increase may understate the growth of traffic at these airports. If ordinary Americans stopped using those airports in 2021 due to coronavirus at the same rate they did elsewhere, the surplus over the expected 2021 figure (70% of 2019’s total) could be as high as 425,000.

In addition, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio registered 13,000 outbound passengers in 2021, compared to only 936 in 2019 and 247 in 2018.

As coronavirus restrictions continued to lock down much of the country and made air travel difficult for most people in 2021, two groups appeared to travel in such great quantities that their journeys stand out glaringly in national statistics. The first group was illegal immigrants, which the federal government flew throughout the country on secret, late-night flights to be settled in communities across the country, often without any notice to local elected representatives.

The second group was wealthy elites who seemed to want to hide out the pandemic in luxury resorts, with the airports at Jackson Hole, Martha’s Vineyard, and Key West showing huge increases. Those two groups collided this month when Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) flew 50 migrants who first showed up in Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, a community of summer homes for wealthy progressives. Local leaders on the island declared a “crisis” and military officials quickly moved the migrants to a military base.

“This data illuminates the contempt that the Biden administration holds for those who oppose their agenda. After spending nearly two years quietly flying illegal immigrants all over the country, the Biden administration now wants to call Republican governors ‘human traffickers’ for giving them a taste of their own medicine. Shame on them,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-North Carolina), a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and its Border Security subcommittee, said of The Daily Wire’s findings.

“It’s important to remember that Biden has been secretly flying illegal aliens late at night under the cover of darkness for over a year. Democrats, celebrities, and the media didn’t care about any of these flights until Governor DeSantis sent 50 illegals to Martha’s Vineyard,” RJ Hauman, director of government relations and communications at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which advocates for immigration controls, told The Daily Wire.

“Biden can learn from how Martha’s Vineyard responded — they essentially deported all the illegal aliens who were transported there within 24 hours. Start doing that down at the border and the crisis will end,” he said.

The Daily Wire previously chronicled the flight paths of dozens of charter aircraft believed to be ferrying migrants within the U.S. ICE has long flown illegal immigrants throughout the country on their way to being deported, but more recently, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement has used charter planes to settle them in places such as Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Westchester, New York.

One landed in Knoxville, Tennessee, a week after Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, demanded that the Biden administration “secure the border and stop scattering children across the country.”

Others’ journeys are fueled by nonprofits like Catholic Charities, whose federal funding for refugee services has skyrocketed under the Biden administration.

Fox News has captured video of single, adult males in Brownsville being placed in buses or cabs and taken to the Harlingen airport. Some migrants said they had crossed the border just that morning after paying smugglers. They would be boarding flights to Miami, Houston, or Atlanta, they said.

AirportIncrease from 2019Increase over expected (factoring pandemic drop)
Sarasota, FL596,533889,602
Myrtle Beach, SC294,787680,097
Key West, SC243,474392,674
Bozeman, MT188,130423,653
Panama City, FL173,440359,741
Valparaiso, FL159,877403,799
San Juan, PR148,6081,524,750
Charlotte Amalie, VI140,133317,486
Colorado Springs, CO113,488361,856
Pensacola, FL69,686399,139
Hilton Head Island, SC65,76398,924
Glacier Park, MT61,640168,507
McAllen, TX55,202181,850
Jackson Hole, WY53,501186,629
St. George, UT50,90381,572
Yampa Valley, CO44,13575,916
Idaho Falls, ID42,31494,945
Brownsville, TX38,55077,347
Fort Myers, FL36,7811,549,007
Montrose, CO30,15777,586
Harlingen, TX19,809120,358
Laredo, TX17,94945,244
Kaunakakai, HI17,00032,365
Martha’s Vineyard, MA14,99730,824
Ogden, UT13,69318,539
Sheridan, WY12,97816,258
Lackland AFB, San Antonio, TX12,19012,471

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