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Did Ron DeSantis break the law by sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard?

G.Florida parent Ron DeSantis took credit for placing a group of 48 migrants on Texas planes that landed unannounced at Martha’s Vineyard, leaving immigrant support groups and lawyers fighting to provide them with legal assistance with their pending asylum cases.

However, Democratic lawyers and officials have pressed whether the governor’s politically motivated stunt – an attempt to accuse President Joe Biden’s immigration policy – was closer to a crime, after migrants said they had been lured to flights with false job promises and accelerated legal stays in the US.

Rachel Self, a Boston immigration attorney, wrote in a statement that the migrants, most of whom fled Venezuela before being arrested in San Antonio, are “kidnapping victims” and of a scam who qualify for nonimmigrant visas to protect them from deportation .

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried have called on US Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the case, and the US Attorney’s Office in Boston is also working with the US Department of Justice to determine if any crimes have been committed.

On September 16, after migrants left the island off the coast of Massachusetts to a larger mainland refuge in Cape Cod, Governor DeSantis defended his actions, claiming that migrants signed release forms for “voluntary transport for which they sign up.”

He said the migrants were “identified” as likely to have come to Florida where they “would impose a heavy cost on the community, so we try to avoid it.”

Questions remain about Florida’s $ 12 million program and airline contracts

The governor did not explain how Texas migrants were identified as headed for Florida, or why the state is investigating several states further.

DeSantis said there were “lots of things that have been used to create infrastructure” as part of a state-funded program to move migrants out of the state.

But the budget language for the $ 12 million program suggests the state will be transporting them from Florida and not from other states.

“We’re going to spend every penny of it,” DeSantis told reporters Friday.

State records indicate that the Florida Department of Transportation paid $ 615,000 to an Oregon-based airline company with offices in Florida earlier this month for a “Unauthorized Foreigner Relocation Program.”

“I have $ 12 million to use, so we’re going to use it. You’ll see more and more, added the governor. “I’m going to make sure we use all of these funds.”

Independent asked the airline company for comments and explanations about its role in the Florida show.

“Criminal Liability” or “Moral Crime”?

So much remains unclear about the journey of Texas migrants to Massachusetts and how Florida officials identify and collect migrants from other states to be sent to so-called “sanctuary” states and cities.

But the widely ridiculed maneuver reflects attempts by other Republican governors to ferry migrants from their states to other parts of the U.S., an attempt to portray largely Democrat-controlled states and cities as hypocritical, and to protest what the U.S. right has labeled President Biden. an “open border” policy that facilitates “illegal” immigration to the US.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent thousands of migrants to Chicago, New York and Washington, spending more than $ 12 million on bus rentals.

Arizona has also leased more than 40 buses, at a cost of about $ 3.5 million, to send thousands of migrants to Washington.

After Governor Abbott transported migrants to Chicago this week, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said he was reviewing “criminal liability” and suggested that migrants were not “voluntarily” boarding.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also suggested that migrants were forced or misled into believing that “the only option for them … is free bus travel.”

White House attacks Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis for treating migrants “like cattle”

Analysts and legal critics have suggested that such measures violate federal law that could hold individuals or entities criminally liable; “Knowing or recklessly disregarding the fact that an alien has entered, entered or remains in the United States in violation of the law, is transporting or moving, or is attempting to transport or transfer such an alien in the United States by means of transportation, or otherwise in pursuit of such a violation of the law” .

While immigration lawyers and attorneys have denounced what they see as clear provocation that exploits vulnerable people for political ends, a kind of “moral” offense, it is unlikely that there will be a breach of the criminal law.

“But it’s not clear to me, based on these facts, that it’s more like human trafficking or smuggling,” said Sarah Sherman-Stokes of the Boston University School of Law. Washington Post.

“Obviously DeSantis is using them for political gain, but I’m not sure if this has grown to the level of human trafficking,” she said.

Bridgette Carr, a law professor at the University of Michigan, told the paper: “Unfortunately, I don’t think of a law that says, ‘We can prosecute you for being a jerk to defenseless people for our own political gain.’ I wish we did.

On September 16, migrants were transported by ferry from Martha’s Vineyard to a larger shelter with health care and legal aid in Cape Cod.


US Attorney Rachael Rollins of Boston said the agency was investigating the case and talking to the Justice Department, but did not yet have enough information to determine whether there was a crime.

“Massachusetts isn’t the only place where this happened,” she said in a statement. “We have some other sister communities, be it DC, New York, California, where we’ve seen things like that. And we hope the Department of Justice will be informed of what our next steps may be, if any.

Carlos Munoz reaches out to hug Larkin Stallings as migrants prepare to leave St Andrews Church in Martha’s Vineyard on September 16.


Susan Church, a Cambridge immigration attorney, said: Boston Globe that migrants were “tricked into boarding a plane”.

“It’s like a kidnapping,” she said.

“The use of human beings – families and children – as political pawns says a lot more about Governor DeSantis’ heartlessness and disregard for human life than it does about the people of Martha’s Vineyard,” says Self, a Boston immigration lawyer. “He sent these planes here in the hope that they would expose hypocrisy; he doesn’t believe anyone when they say they care about people like the migrants fleeing the oppressive socialist regime in Venezuela, because he himself cannot imagine caring for them. “

Complicated legal immigration process

Whether or not any crimes have been committed, legal migrants’ journeys – from processing them in Texas to shelter in Massachusetts – are only just beginning.

A group of immigration lawyers joined migrants on their way to Joint Base Cape Cod, a large facility better equipped to accommodate migrants (including separate rooms for families) who will have access to health care, counseling and legal assistance, according to the office of Governor Charlie Baker.

However, sending groups of people across the country who have no idea where they are going while examining asylum applications in immigration courts hundreds of kilometers away has created a separate legal chaos.

Migrants seeking asylum for humanitarian aid or protection after fleeing Venezuela are likely to have been released from custody awaiting questioning before being “sent to a small community where resources must be accessed,” says Matt Maiona, a human rights lawyer. Boston Immigration Service and spokesperson for the American Association of Immigration Lawyers.

“If such a political feat were to be performed, it would certainly be better and more humane to go to a city like Boston where these resources are more accessible,” he said. Independent Thursday.

Immigration attorneys and legal services are working to determine the status of migrants and the places of the asylum courts. If they are based in Texas, immigration attorneys will likely file requests to relocate closer to the Boston area or US destination if friends, family, or opportunities expect them elsewhere.

“There is no doubt that there is a continuing need for humanitarian aid and support,” said Maiona. “These are the people who can help you not only get through the trial, but also adapt, get to the court, get your case examined, because … it’s a complicated system.”

After teary goodbyes and cheers at their warm reception at Martha’s Vineyard on their way to the mainland, one man said Boston Globe that he believes they “don’t want immigrants in Texas and Florida.”

“But human life is not a game,” he said.


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