Flyers promoting migrant relocation dropped at Latino community church in Orlando

The Rev. José Rodriguez was shocked when he read flyers left at his east Orlando church last weekend advertising free “migrant relocation flights” with a phone number for people to call.

He found them before Sunday morning service at Iglesia Episcopal Jesús de Nazaret in Azalea Park, a mostly Hispanic neighborhood just east of Semoran Boulevard. Rodriguez quickly removed them, but his concerns linger.

While it isn’t clear exactly who is behind the offer, it’s reminiscent of last year’s controversy involving state-paid relocations of immigrants from Florida and other Southern states to liberal enclaves like California and Massachusetts. But the solicitation at Central Florida churches — at least one other was hit with the flyers — is certainly a new and disheartening twist, Rodriguez and others said at a news conference Friday.

“I became instantly disgusted to see that a place that is considered to be a safe haven is now a place that is targeted to move forth political agendas,” said Bishop Derrick McRae, president of the African American Council on Christian Clergy.

The Azalea Park church and its pastor are known for their advocacy for Puerto Ricans after hurricanes Maria and Irma, as well as an outspoken voice for immigrants and for Latinos to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

The leaflets were from a company called My Bright Horizon, and tout “free relocation support for eligible migrants in the United States,” citing an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Rodriguez said they were left at the back door of the church, but he was able to keep them from being distributed to the mostly Latino congregation. The documents were in English, Spanish and Creole.

“The front page of this was designed to fool a pastor like me to put them out,” Rodriguez said at the news conference Friday. “The inside was designed to fool someone looking at it to call the number.”

He and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Orlando, said they’d been made aware of another church in north Orlando that received the flyers at a food pantry run there. However, they said, the pastor of that church didn’t want the house of worship to be identified.

Last year, DeSantis signed a bill into law creating a $10 million program for migrant relocations, which allowed Florida to move migrants from anywhere in the country. Previous flights faced legal questions — particularly one in which the administration relocated a group of South American migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, as opposed to moving them from Florida.

Little could be learned Friday about My Bright Horizon. Its website is scant on details about the business, but lists various federal documents required to be eligible for travel.

“The My Bright Horizon Program is a free opportunity to voluntarily relocate. We offer travel by either flight or bus, lodging during travel, hygiene supplies, security for duration of travel, and daily meals and beverages,” a message on the home page reads.

It’s unclear if the company is based in Florida – nothing by that business name has filed paperwork with Florida’s Division of Corporations. The company didn’t respond to emailed questions about its funding, and why flyers were left at the church.

The governor’s office didn’t respond in time for publication to questions about whether the company has a state contract.

Rodriguez said he was thankful the flyers didn’t make it in the hands of the congregation.

“I will have no part into receiving these brochures and handing them out to an unsuspecting populous,” he said. “I will have no part in hurting people I am called to help.”