Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Maria Ramirez Uribe
By Maria Ramirez Uribe March 29, 2024

This airplane at the Detroit airport flew March Madness basketball players, not ‘illegal invaders’

If Your Time is short

  • The Allegiant Air plane at Detroit Metropolitan Airport transported Gonzaga University’s basketball team, not "illegal invaders" as Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock claimed. 

  • No spin, just facts you can trust. Here's how we do it.

Two blurry photos are being used as evidence that immigrants in the U.S. illegally are being bused and flown around the country.

One image shows part of an Allegiant Air plane between two buildings. The other shows three buses lined up in a row.

"Happening right now. Three busses just loaded up with illegal invaders at Detroit Metro," state Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Mich. posted at 8:20 p.m. March 27 on X, misspelling buses, along with the images. "Anyone have any idea where they’re headed with their police escort?"

The post had more than 13 million views as of March 29. But the photos don't show a plane or buses filled with migrants.

(Screenshot from X)

Maddock’s state is hosting the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament’s Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. The plane and buses in the photos at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) transported players competing in the games, according to an airport spokesperson.  

The four teams competing March 29 at Detroit's Little Caesars Arena arrived at DTW on March 27, a Detroit Metropolitan Airport spokesperson told PolitiFact. The buses in the photos were transporting the teams.

Gonzaga University’s team flew on the Allegiant airplane shown in the photo. 

"Allegiant had one flight to DTW March 27. It was a charter flight carrying Gonzaga’s men’s basketball team from Spokane," Hector Mejia, an Allegiant Air spokesperson, told PolitiFact. He said the flight arrived at 7:25 pm local time. 

Social media posts from the Gonzaga team show photos and a video of the players arriving in Detroit on an Allegiant airplane.

Featured Fact-check

X users added a community note to Maddock’s post.

"This is the Gonzaga men’s basketball team, not a group of migrants," the note read. "The police escort is taking them to the NCAA Men’s Sweet Sixteen."

Multiple outlets also fact-checked Maddock’s claim. 

Despite this information, Maddock doubled down, creating a thread of additional replies filled with incorrect and misleading information about immigration. Maddock did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment.

"Everyone knows that Biden and (Michigan Gov. Gretchen) Whitmer are flying and bussing in illegals," Maddock said in one of the follow-up posts.

We’ve previously debunked claims that President Joe Biden is flying immigrants in the U.S. illegally. The most recent claims were about a Biden administration parole program allowing eligible immigrants from certain countries to work and live in the U.S. for two years. People in that program are responsible for booking and paying for their own flights.

"The radical left has one goal. Flood us with tens of millions of illegals to be counted in the 2030 census to create dozens of new Democrat Congressional Seats," Maddock said in the thread on his March 27 post. PolitiFact also has explained why that claim is flawed.

Immigration officials have encountered immigrants at and between ports of entry 9 million times during Biden’s administration. But that does not mean 9 million people entered the country and are now living in the U.S. 

Encounters represent events, not people, so the same person can be stopped multiple times and each time would count as a separate encounter. Additionally, the U.S. has expelled, removed or returned people from the U.S. around 3.8 million times under Biden, according to PolitiFact’s analysis of Department of Homeland Security data.

Through September 2023, the most recent data available, about 2.3 million people had been released into the U.S. during Biden’s administration, Department of Homeland Security data shows.

Our ruling

Maddock said on X that photos showed, "Three busses just loaded up with illegal invaders at Detroit Metro."

The buses transported the four men’s basketball teams playing in the NCAA March Madness tournament’s Sweet 16 games hosted in Detroit. The Allegiant airplane in the photo Maddock shared was transporting the Gonzaga team. 

Maddock’s claim is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim. We rate it Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Matt Maddock, post, March 27, 2024

Gonzaga Basketball, post, March 27, 2024

Gonzaga Basketball, post, March 27, 2024

CNN, Fact check: Michigan GOP legislator posted about ‘illegal invaders’ at Detroit airport. It was Gonzaga’s March Madness team, March 28, 2024

AFP, US state politician misrepresents college basketball players as 'illegal invaders', March 28, 2024

NBC, Michigan GOP lawmaker falsely labels March Madness athletes 'illegal invaders', March 28, 2024

Detroit Free Press, Michigan lawmaker says 'illegal invaders' landed at DTW. They were NCAA basketball teams., March 28, 2024

Matt Maddock, post, March 27, 2024

PolitiFact, Claims that Biden is ‘secretly’ flying immigrants into U.S. cities ignore key facts, March 16, 2022

PolitiFact, Migrants in parole program do not receive free flights to the US, March 15, 2024

Matt Maddock, post, March 27, 2024

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Nationwide Encounters, accessed March 29, 2024

PolitiFact, No, 10 million people have not entered the U.S. under Biden as pastor Franklin Graham claims, March 8, 2024

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Custody and Transfer Statistics, accessed March 29, 2024

The Washington Post, U.S. released more than 2.3 million migrants at border since 2021, data show, Jan. 6, 2024

Maxwell White, post, March 28, 2024

Email exchange, Detroit Metropolitan Airport spokesperson, March 28, 2024

Email exchange, Hector Mejia, Allegiant Air spokesperson, March 28, 2024

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Maria Ramirez Uribe

This airplane at the Detroit airport flew March Madness basketball players, not ‘illegal invaders’

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up