Chattanooga Airport Seeing Migrants Stopping in the City

Aug. 16, 2022

Aug. 16—Chattanooga Airport is seeing migrants coming to Lovell Field and then flying out, an official said Monday, similar to recent reports that busloads of migrants were making stops in and around the city.

Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive, told Airport Authority members at a meeting that the migrants have been coming in over the last three weeks.

He said he doesn't know how they're arriving at the airport, but they've got passenger tickets and required documentation to be in the country.

"I don't know where they're getting their tickets," Hart said. He described the numbers coming to the airport as "a handful."

"If they need food, we'll give them food," he said.

There haven't been any issues with the migrants, he added.

"They're human beings, and we'll treat them like human beings," he said.

Last week, Dade County, Georgia, Sheriff Ray Cross reported to the scene of a bus carrying migrants attempting to drop off passengers in his community, according to a Sheriff's Office social media post.

The post said the bus driver told Cross that Rising Fawn, Georgia, was one of the bus's stops, and several immigrants had already decided to get off there.

Also, the Chattanooga Police Department was called to a hotel in Lookout Valley to investigate a bus carrying migrants.

Arsala Quezon, working the front desk at the Comfort Inn & Suites Lookout Mountain, told the Times Free Press last Friday that the arrival of buses had been a regular occurrence for "a few months." She said buses come through daily — sometimes two in a day.

The busloads are said to have been sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to Washington, D.C. Abbott has been sending the migrants as a protest of federal border policies, which he said are weak.

Abbott called the effort a mission to "provide relief to overrun border communities" and "bring the reality of the crisis to the federal government's doorstep."

Joda Thongnopnua, chief of staff for the city of Chattanooga, posted on social media last Friday that Chattanooga is "apparently a stopping point for charter buses sent by the state of Texas to the East Coast carrying migrants following the legal process of asylum. We are coordinating a multi-agency response to ensure these individuals are able to connect with their families and safely arrive at their final destinations. This administration will respond with compassion to vulnerable people fleeing extremely difficult circumstances."

He said that it is "important to understand that these are migrants who have been screened by the Department of Homeland Security and are legally seeking asylum — which is a protected legal status."

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.


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