Caught in the Crossfire: How Delta Air Lines Became The Center Of A Political Storm Over Immigration

Some anti-immigration Republicans are now calling for a boycott of Delta Air Lines after a commentator filmed the carrier flying migrants from Phoenix to New York.

Normally the complaint is that undocumented immigrants crossing into border states like Arizona and Texas overburdens those states and so they want them moved to New York (or Martha’s Vineyard)? Perhaps a quarter of New York City hotel rooms are now being used to house migrants.

I thought that critics of immigration liked it when people were shipped to Blue States. Or is it only a good thing when they fly private?

Prior to deregulation flying was the province of the well off. Now it’s very small-d democratic. She might prefer people to be bused, I guess? Or maybe restricted to flying Spirit? Despite was Delta management would have you believe, the Atlanta-based airline isn’t so premium that you can to pick the demographics of those you fly with.

People come to the U.S. all the time, including from visa waiver countries, and they receive less screening and processing than the passengers on these Delta flights.

we’re short workers in the U.S. and it’s harming the economy. Unemployment his historically low, and immigrants on-net add. We need more immigration, not less. We need to make it possible for people to come work in the U.S. and leave but current policies bring productive workers to the U.S. and force them to stay because it’s so costly to return. We need to make it easier to visit, too. From some countries the wait for a visa interview is three years.

Here’s what a Republican debate on immigration used to look like.

Now is an odd time for anti-immigration Republcians to get mad at Delta. Five years ago they provided free flights to immigrant families separated by then-President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. At the time several airlines were embarrassed into refusing to transport children on family separation flights.

Initially the government just buys a ticket. And unless a passenger is on the airline’s no fly list, or a government no fly list, the person can fly. Is moving migrants to New York really something anti-immigration activists want to be having a problem with Delta over?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Little do these people know how many people are flying every other US airline – because they are all carrying illegal immigrants. This has nothing to do with Delta.
    It is simply not any private business’ job to enforce government policy. If they are in the US, they are free to participate in the US economy even if someone else pays for it.
    Are these people going to boycott grocery stores that sell food to illegals?
    Anyone that doesn’t like it needs to head to Washington DC and show their rage there.

  2. The error is to give these half-wits on twitter any more air time. Social media has just allowed idiots everywhere to project their voices, much to the detriment of everyone else.

  3. Gary….Please don’t go political on your blog. It is not only Republicans that want to limit unrestrained and unregulated immigration. Many Democrats, especially in the affected “sanctuary” cities” are calling for restraint. Yes, we need workers because Americans have become too entitled to work in less desirable jobs, but that does not mean just opening the borders and letting everyone and anyone to enter. Our southern border states have been suffering while the Biden administration ignores the problem, but now that the elites are being impacted, suddenly we need restraint. I agree Delta is blameless here, they are only meeting the market demand, as would any airline. I don’t know the economics here; is it more or less expensive to fly people in a matter hours or put them on buses and have to feed them in transit.
    Discuss the problem, just don’t go singling out Republicans for objecting to open borders.

  4. Former presidents Bush (I) and Reagan would now be considered – communists?
    And Ashley, may I respectfully suggest you please fly AA on a go forward basis.

  5. Gary, in the context of support of Illegal Immigration, you’ve made the statement: “we’re short workers in the U.S. and it’s harming the economy. Unemployment his historically low, and immigrants on-net add. We need more immigration, not less”.
    Whereas this would definitely BE CORRECT relative to Legal Immigration, it would definitely NOT BE CORRECT, as applied to Illegal Immigration. The latter brings Terrorists, Organized Crime, Drugs & Drug Dealers, and any manner of Criminals into the Country (in addition to lots of good people as well, but regrettably they are all mixed together).
    As for the balance of your commentary, I’m certainly agreed: It makes little sense for someone claiming to be on the Right to argue for leaving close to 10 million Illegal Immigrants in Texas and Arizona, without spreading them evenly around the country.

  6. I have a feeling most of the people who are going to “boycott” Delta over this aren’t even in their target demographic these days, income wise.

  7. @TexasTJ – legal immigration is nearly impossible, skills classifications haven’t been updated in decades, and most of the slots get taken up by unskilled family members. we barely let people get an interview for a visa to visit. the legal immigration system, as i suggest at the bottom of the post, is very very broken. let’s fix that.

  8. They can’t fly Spirit…. Spirit doesn’t have any GSA city pair contracts. Haha.

    But to others points, every airline is carrying. I’ve seen groups on American, United, Delta, etc., especially out of Houston or Harlingen/Brownsville/El Paso. Usually when it’s children they are dressed similarly in sweats with the same duffel bag.

    The original complainer would throw a fit if they saw the Omni 767s and 777s with only 80-100 on board as private charters.

  9. Gary this was nothing but a shameless faked opportunity for you to go spouting politics and supporting people breaking the law (rather than supporting making the law easier to work with). Being illegal also means putting yourself AND YOUR CHILDREN in direct harm in order to get here. Then you’ll be living in poverty, constantly hiding from authority, therefore unable to defend yourself or your family, and taken advantage of by being forced to do the worst work for even less pay, and thereby keeping a legal immigrant from doing that same job but for proper pay and legal protection.

    One thing that you illegal immigration supporters always forget is that they’re just setting themselves and their families up to be endlessly preyed upon. Everything from getting bullied by employers and landlords, up to and including robbery and assault and even having to room up with pedophiles while their kids suffer absolute hell, I have personally seen go unreported by the illegal immigrants just to avoid deportation. Had they come here legally then they’d have protection and be much less of a target (or at least be able to get justice when something does happen).

    But people like you Gary would prefer to support the problem that you truly don’t understand, rather than advocate for a solution (that doesn’t involve supporting the problem).

    Don’t forget that, as much as people hated the last president, He still offered to make some major changes to help fix the system and yet it was the Democrats who 100% rejected it unconditionally because it also meant not allowing illegal immigration to continue as easily. Right there, that proved that they weren’t about fixing the problem and helping the people, they were about supporting the problem so they can still have their bleeding-heart political movement.

  10. @Gary Leff, legal immigration is not nearly impossible but it is difficult. My Brazilian-American ex boss is currently working on getting his wife into the USA. It will happen but it takes time and strains the finances and relationship. It definitely takes longer than when I brought my wife to the USA in 1990. A coworker came to the USA along with family members on a diversity visa. He needed a way forward so he joined the Marines. After he got out, he used the GI Bill to get his undergraduate degree. Then he got a job in engineering. A friend finally got visas for her adopted daughters to come to the USA just before Covid-19 hit. Lately they completed the process to get US citizenship and US passports are in the process. What the USA needs is a guest worker program like they had several times before.

  11. As an America citizen who has had to write a (very) large check to the IRS every year. I only approve the taxpayer funded flying of illegal aliens in one Scenario: BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN.

  12. *Anti ILLEGAL immigration. Illegal immigration ALSO false/disingenuous asylum claims.
    My wife immigrated here LEGALLY and merit-based in the 90’s. Nothing pisses her off more than those thumbing their nose at our laws and those enabling them.

  13. This should be interesting. I get to watch one group of people I hate, MAGA Neanderthals, try to take down another group of people I hate, Delta Airlines. Meanwhile, I’ll just be the King of the Divan and have a large bowl of popcorn brought to me.

  14. Gary says “legal immigration is nearly impossible.”

    Answer – HOGWASH

    “Since 2007, the United States has approved around one million green cards per year, although this number fell slightly in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nov 17, 2023”,of%20the%20COVID%2D19%20pandemic.

    How many legal migrants become US citizens?

    Answer – “Fiscal Year 2022 Naturalization Statistics. USCIS welcomed 967,500 new citizens in fiscal year 2022 during naturalization ceremonies held across the United States and around the world. This is a 20% increase from last year and the highest number of naturalizations seen since FY 2008.”,naturalizations%20seen%20since%20FY%202008.

    Given that we have been permitting upwards of 1 million green card holders annually, and a very large number of them are becoming US citizens, there is no need for the unskilled labor that illegal immigration entails.

    It simply depresses the wages of unskilled American workers, makes the cost of our healthcare and housing increase, either through direct taxation, or by squeezing the supply of available housing, and the cost of healthcare and educating these migrants is spiraling upwards, not to mention permitting our border to become a sieve allowing all sorts of illegal contraband into our country.

    Illegal immigration is a net negative to this and most other countries.

  15. There is regulated immigration which is fine or there is an unregulated invasion which we have had for the last 5 years. Even during Covid when people were prohibited from entering the US without a vax, the illegals entering the US were allowed in no questions asked.
    All you have to do is look at the state of European countries that have allowed an invasion of people that have no desire to assimilate.

  16. Presumably all these folks have proper ID, otherwise they ride a bus? How else would they be able to check them against the No Fly list, as claimed?

  17. We really should enforce laws, otherwise why have them. But I’m all for changing laws to make it much more welcoming of new immigrants and visitors.

  18. This article is terrible. You have no idea what’s going on here. Go talk to Bill Melugin, or people in the border towns to have perspective on what’s going on unless you’re trying to be as insulated and elitist as Brian Kelly’s crew.

    You have free flights, take a day trip to MFE, TUS, PHX to see for yourself instead of engaging in shoddy corporate press propaganda.

  19. Guest worker visas are the lowest of the low hanging fruit. If we make it easy for people to apply and reapply after following the law, then everyone wins. How many white people do you see picking tomatoes or working in a poultry plant? If nobody here wants a certain job and guest workers do, why not let them in to do that job? Or would people rather pay $3.79 a pound for tomatoes and $5.50 a pound for chicken breast in the supermarket?

  20. The number of stupid, asinine and incorrect comments on this post is unbelievable. If you are going to have a hateful, bigoted opinion, at least get your facts straight.

  21. GU
    you truly don’t understand economics or politics which you have proven over and over and over on this site.

    Inflation is due to rampant money printing around the world and spending beyond government receipts including for immigrant services which even Democratic cities say they can’t afford.

    Regardless of what you think of immigration, there is no chance of getting the solution right if you don’t understand the real problems.

  22. the problem is that not even the solidly reliable Dem voting blocs are looking elsewhere and, led by CA, they are simply leaving to Rep led states.
    Those are totally non-political facts.

  23. We’re not anti-immigration, Leff. We’re anti-illegal immigration. And it should be zero tolerance – you enter illegally, you’re done, thrown out, never permitted to enter under any circumstances. If you very first act in coming to America is to say “yeah, your rules don’t matter to me”, then you’ve made my point.

  24. This wouldn’t even be so bad if we would allow them to work but we don’t even allow them to do the most basic jobs.

    We employ them in lower skilled jobs that have seen takeovers by unions. This would break the backs of unions and help keep costs down.

  25. Bad enough that I had sign and show Covid documents for a few years flying into the US from international departures, while the foot and water traffic from Mexico didn’t have to do so.
    Apart from the obvious questions of CLEAR document checks, TSA document checks, check-in counter staff document checks, etc., are these passengers signed up with loyalty account numbers? Who is getting their loyalty points and status milestones? Are they future flyers that loyalty marketers are targeting? Are they also ending up on private jets? Inquiring minds want to know.

  26. A big yes to the Delta employee that pointed out these are human beings. Too bad that the unbridled nationalism makes that even necessary to say. Ashley and many of these commenting need more education and more humanity.

  27. DLF – no, they’re illegal immigrants. Their feelings don’t matter, and they don’t deserve humanity.
    They deserve treating like the scofflaws they are. They deserve to be thrown out, and never allowed back in. Try staying in Mexico illegally and see how that goes. Hell, try buying ocean front property in Mexico – you’re not allowed to. It’s called protecting your country.

    From illegals. And you.

  28. @Tim Dunn and others

    And how do you know they are “illegal” immigrants? Many, if not most immigrants are seeking and have claimed asylum in the US, hoping to become permanent residents of the US. And therefore are not illegal.

    You haters of change remind me of the young man in my barbershop who was cursing about the Mexicans in town. And the old man listening in, who said “Son, what you got agin folks that come here with nuthin, work longer hours and harder than you or I do, save money, buy a house, go to church, and send their kids to college? Sounds to me like you are jealous of them.” The rest of the barbershop just chuckled and smiled.

  29. Andy’s,

    Illegal immigrants can’t legally vote, and they generally prefer money and freedom over ending up deprived of money/property and freedom over the risk of voting illegally. And illegal immigrants coming across the US-Mexican border take far longer to become US citizens than someone like Melania Trump who pushed the limits of the immigration system and may well have been considered an illegals immigrant for a while after arriving arguably legally but may have been illegal if she committed visa fraud against the US.


    I clearly understand politics and economics more than you realize. Shutting down borders generates inflationary pressure and increases inflation, ceteris paribus. There is a reason why traditional “pro-labor” parties in much of the developed world had been protectionist and even anti-legal immigration: to drive up wages of local workers and drive up prices to be paid by consumers in the aggregate for goods produced by within the country. There used to be a lot of very protectionist Democrats in the US, and it was the Republicans who were more the “free traders” and pro-immigration to try to keep American business owners’ costs down at the expense of American labor.

  30. Fake asylum. Kiss off

    If you’ve gone through five other countries before getting here and claiming asylum – you’re a liar. And an illegal immigrant.

  31. Bob Not Bob,

    Shouldn’t some Native Americans still be demanding when the European colonizers, the European settlers and their descendants will be mass deported back to Europe so they can get back lands invaded and seized by Europeans and since then occupied by the European settlers’ descendants without Native Americans providing duress-free legal authorization for the European “hordes” who did so many of the things — and on a much more extensive scale — which “the former guy” said about Mexicans who came to the US?

    Migration needs to be managed, but the idea that the newest waves of migrants to the US are much worse than the colonizing forces and their descendants is without credibility when you see how much rape was a part of the colonizers’ and settlers’ disgusting arsenal across the Americas.

  32. Walter,

    Ye Lord T R U M P is still married to someone who arguably may have been an illegal immigrant to the US. Legal status of foreigners in the US can be rather more fluid than most Americans realize.

  33. BigTee,

    I had to show Covid-related docs to return to my country of citizenship and to travel across the oceans. Not the end of the world for this American. ;). And with those Covid-related restrictions came way less of the stupid “security” questions from airline security contractors when flying US-bound flights.

  34. GUWonder – kiss off. Then and now are two different things. Want to call that an invasion? The indians certainly fought back. OK, cool. They lost. So can we now fight back in the same way with the flood of illegals and fake asylums? I know who would win. “Migration” is woke BS. Legal immigration exists. The illegals don’t want to follow the process. The “newest waves” are absolutely worse. Unless, as noted above, you would like us to respond the same way as back in the day?

    Oh, “Ye Lord T R U M P”? Were you born an illiterate troglodyte, or was there a class?

  35. Walter,

    “Kiss, kiss, honey bun.”

    It sounds like an invasion that results in conquest would be just fine with you no matter what, as it seems like you’re from the school of “might makes right”.

    Last I checked, unauthorized immigrants to the US nowadays aren’t running lots of government-protected rapist-run plantations in these lands that are today the US. Seems like immigration since the US civil rights era has not made for a return to the ugly past despite the cacophony of dog whistles about “the danger” from “the other”.

  36. GUWonder,
    what planet were you on?
    There were MORE questions and more obstacles during covid than before.

    And undocumented immigrants don’t become legal just because they have claimed asylum?

    Do you realize the US is giving them court days EIGHT YEARS from now?

    The US immigration system is broken. The current administration believes it is their responsibility to flood the country with anyone that wants to come in rather than enforce the laws that the US has. The hypocrisy of calling carrot top’s actions illegal couldn’t be more stunning.

  37. @ Gary
    So how many asylum seekers from Gaza do we take in?

    A lot of the pro-Hamas sentiment seems to stem from people arriving from the ME in the last decade or so.

  38. GUWonder – other way around, idiot. This *IS* an invasion, and we should treat it as such, with lethal response.

    Jog on, troglodyte.

  39. @GUWonder

    You continue to prove that left wing people subscribe to an ideology of feeling rather than one of reality. People like you are harmful not only to yourselves but society as a whole.

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