NYC provides free airline tickets to illegal immigrants for travel across the US

"They give me ticket for free to Chicago," a Russian migrant said. "I fly tomorrow, for free!"

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC

While walking through New York City recently, Frontlines' Savanah Hernandez noticed a group of illegal immigrants lined up outside a building. She soon learned that many of them were waiting to receive tickets to destinations across the country and beyond.

The tickets, Hernandez discovered, were free, paid for by Mayor Eric Adams' government.

"I wanna highlight these signs," Hernandez said, pointing to sheets of paper taped to the wall. "They say 'Did you know? We can book you a ticket to travel anywhere outside New York City. No need to wait in line, just tell the front door staff you'd like to get a travel ticket' ... in eight different languages."

The notices stipulate that a valid international passport or US-issued photo ID is required to travel domestically, with only the former being valid for international trips.

Among those who took advantage of the offer was a man from Russia.

"Yes!" he cried with excitement. "They give me ticket for free to Chicago. I fly tomorrow, for free!"

When asked why he chose Chicago, the Russian said he was trying to find a new job, but also wanted to "see new city" and "feel new new vibe, new atmosphere, and maybe try to find new contacts, new friends."

"Who gave you the ticket?" Hernandez continued, to which he replied, "I don't know, this special government service company."

He went on to explain that after Chicago, he planned on visiting Los Angeles, which he noted "was the first city in my life before New York."

The Russian told Hernandez that if he wanted to get another taxpayer-funded ticket out to the west coast, all he would have to do is ask.

"So you stayed in New York for a year, then you're gonna go to Chicago, then you wanna go to LA after."

"Da," he replied, noting that if he is able to find work in the Windy City, he may just stay there.

Adams introduced the plan to pay for illegal immigrants' airline tickets in 2023, arguing that in many cases, flying them to cities across the country was cheaper than caring for them in the Big Apple.

The reticketing center is located in the East Village. 

"With no sign of a decompression strategy in the near future, we have established a reticketing center for migrants," a spokesperson for Mayor Adams said at the time.

"Here, the city will redouble efforts to purchase tickets for migrants to help them take the next steps in their journeys, and it helps us triage operations at The Roosevelt for new arrivals."

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