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Senator Moore’s Atlanta Airport Investigation Elicits Mixed Reactions

By LYDIA BERGLAR
News Editor

After receiving a tip that illegal immigrants routinely pass through the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and convene in a particular room, Senator Colton Moore investigated. Moore’s team used his phone to film their January 31st visit to the airport, and Moore then released the footage and issued a statement calling Governor Brian Kemp to act.

As usual, Moore’s statements elicited mixed reactions. It seems that parts of Moore’s claims are unsubstantiated while others are supported by evidence.

In his public statements, Moore said that they found a “room full of illegal immigrants being guarded by the U.S. Military…Our borders are being breached, and our state is being subjected to an unimaginable human trafficking operation.”

He called on Kemp to “either declare an illegal invasion in Georgia or to resign for failing to uphold his oath of office.”

As of press time, Kemp has not issued a public statement about Moore’s call.

As captured in the footage, Moore spoke with a member of the U.S. Army who was sitting outside of the room. Moore later told the Sentinel that a patch on the man’s uniform is from Fort Moore. Several YouTube commenters identified the insignia/hat as that of a drill sergeant.

While difficult to hear and see everything in the video, it’s clear that Moore asked the Army officer about illegal immigrants, noting that he wants to get documentation of them. The officer replied, “Are you like ICE or something?” Moore said that he is a Georgia senator. The officer said, “They have some kind of agency in there,” and Moore approached the room.

At the door, Moore was met by a volunteer with the nonprofit “Team Libertad” who said, “We’re all getting them flights to where they need to be.” The volunteer said that these people are from all over the world. He said, “These are just recently documented travelers getting released from ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement].”

When Moore attempted to get clearer footage of the room, a second volunteer joined the first in preventing him from further recording, and a scuffle ended the video.

Moore explained to the Sentinel, “Once the group inside figured out I was recording, that’s when things got hostile,” and the officer joined in and took Moore’s phone. When asked how aggressive the altercation was, Moore said, “Physical, very aggressive. [The officer] grabbed my phone. He started using words like, ‘What the f— are you doing? Get the f— outta here.’ I told him he needed to calm down and tried to de-escalate the situation.”

When the Sentinel spoke with Moore on February 5th, his team had not received information about why the officer was at the airport. Moore said, “That’s a question we’re still trying to find the answer to.”

Moore reported that he spoke with an Atlanta police investigator after the event who said that there are no security cameras in that area of the airport. Moore said, “I went back the following day. The closest cameras are all pointed in a direction opposite of that room.”

Moore’s description of the situation as human trafficking has received pushback.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website (summarizing federal law’s definitions of sex trafficking and labor trafficking), “Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”

When the Sentinel asked why he used the term “human trafficking,” Moore explained that immigrants from Mexico are being trafficked by drug cartels. “I had an immigration hearing last year on the Texas border crisis as chairman of the Interstate Cooperation Committee. One of the things we learned in that committee, from testimony, was that in order to get across the border in any way whatsoever, you have to do business with the cartel. Once the cartel gets these illegal immigrants across the border, that’s when the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] step in. The NGOs are funded by the federal government. In many cases, these people can’t afford the fee to get across the border so they become indentured servants to the cartel.”

He did not comment on people who enter the country in ways other than crossing the southern border.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article about Moore’s video titled, “AJC fact checks viral video of immigrants at airport, finds no trafficking.” The only part of the article that addresses the human trafficking claims says that the efforts to assist immigrants is not connected to human trafficking.

As to the legal status of the immigrants, the article reads, “In truth, the former Stewart [Detention Center] detainees are unauthorized immigrants who were taken in by U.S. border authorities. They are in deportation proceedings, and are released on the condition that they attend regular check-ins with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They must ultimately show up to immigration court, where they can make a case to be allowed to stay in the U.S. Because of big backlogs of cases in immigration courts countrywide, the immigrants will probably be able to live in the country for years.”

Further in the article, the AJC wrote, “Despite their lack of legal status and state-issued IDs, immigrants can board flights in the U.S. because TSA accepts alternative documentation, including forms and notices issued by immigration authorities.”

When asked about evidence that the group of people he filmed at the Atlanta airport are illegal immigrants, Moore explained, “This is where we get into big problems. We change the definition of what they are once they come across the border. If they illegally cross the border, they’re illegal immigrants.”

Of the term “documented travelers,” Moore asked, “What is the document? The document is basically an arrest, you need to appear at this date. Because the United States government is giving them a document that says they need to show back up in court, we call them documented which changes the whole tone and narrative.”

Of Team Libertad, Moore said that the conversation at the airport is the only interaction he’s had with the group.

Team Libertad was founded in May 2022 as a program of a nonprofit called Inspiritus. According to the Inspiritus website, the group provides “resources and assistance to recently detained asylum seekers who are leaving Georgia to reunite with loved ones and wait their day in asylum court.”

The website continues, “Comprised of about 100 active volunteers, Team Libertad depends on compassionate individuals from welcoming communities to serve the 50-100 travelers it greets at the airport on a weekly basis. These travelers are individuals seeking asylum who were recently released from the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.”

According to the website, Inspiritus helps refugees in particular obtain Social Security cards (along with meeting many other immediate needs and providing other aid in the resettlement process).

The website indicates a distinction between refugees and immigrants. Of immigration services, the website did not mention Social Security cards, but reads, “Inspiritus offers low-cost high-quality immigration legal services to low-income members of the refugee and immigrant community.”

Andrea Espinoza, Team Libertad’s program coordinator, did not respond to the Sentinel’s request for comment. However, Espinoza was quoted in the AJC article.

A portion reads, “‘We are very proud of their professionalism,’” Andrea Espinoza, program coordinator at Team Libertad, said of the volunteers caught on Moore’s camera.”

The article later included information about why the Army officer was present. “Espinoza says that the uniformed man just happened to be near the room Team Libertad uses — the military service nonprofit United Service Organizations has an office in that part of the airport. Espinoza said her group does not collaborate with law enforcement agencies. In a statement, a Hartsfield-Jackson representative confirmed that account.”

As many readers may know, Kemp and 24 other Republican governors signed a joint statement in support of Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas’ constitutional right to self-defense. When the Sentinel asked Moore if he has witnessed Kemp taking illegal immigration seriously, Moore said he is extremely disappointed in Kemp.

He said, “That statement is nothing more than hollow words. Originally, his talking points were, ‘We have National Guard at the border,’ but as we learned in my immigration hearing last year, our National Guard is simply working for border patrol and the Joe Biden administration, and it’s becoming very evident that border patrol isn’t necessarily doing their job. When Governor Kemp says he’s standing with Texas, he’s inferring that he’s standing with Texas’ right to defend itself. Well, I think our governor should be defending the State of Georgia. I have seen nothing but lip service from our governor on this issue.”

When asked what the State of Georgia can do to address illegal immigration, Moore said, “Georgia should be suing the federal government for the amount of resources that we have already had to pour into this issue. When illegal immigrants show up at our local schools, the Supreme Court says we are required to teach them…There’s been an extreme strain on our medical system, an extreme strain on our public safety having to deal with this…Constitutionally, [the federal government is] supposed to secure the border and protect us from invasion. Same thing in the Georgia Constitution. The governor should be protecting us from invasion, and we are being invaded now.”

Moore reported that the superintendents of Trion City Schools and Chattooga County School District told him that their schools have had illegal immigrants enroll. The Sentinel did not have time to confirm these statements with the superintendents.

Of his plans, Moore said, “I am pushing the Georgia senate to flex its subpoena power in our Government Oversight Committee…and start bringing in officials from the Atlanta airport and having them answer our questions. In the meantime, the state of Georgia should be at the Atlanta airport stopping all of them from leaving the airport.”

The Sentinel encourages interested readers to watch Moore’s video, read his statements, peruse the Inspiritus website, read the AJC article (and any other relevant articles), and come to a conclusion about the situation for themselves.

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