Photo: Ron Schloerb/TNZT
Lawyers representing Venezuelan asylum seekers who flew thousands of miles to a thriving Massachusetts vacation island on behalf of Republican governors have formally requested authorities to open a criminal investigation, alleging that the victims were “taken aboard planes under false pretenses.” and crossed state borders”.
Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR), a Boston-based group representing 30 of the 48 people who flew from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, said: “Individuals, in consultation with state officials, including the governor of Florida, have made numerous false promises. done [to the migrants] – including job opportunities, education for their children and assistance with immigration – to encourage them to travel.”
According to LCR, which provides pro bono legal assistance to the asylum seekers, the Venezuelans were duped into what was essentially a coordinated political stunt targeting vulnerable people based on their race and country of origin. Among those flown to the resort island were women and children as young as two years old.
LCR has written to US attorney Rachael Rollins and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey requesting a criminal investigation, as “we strongly believe that the perpetrators of this stunt violated criminal law.”
In a statement, LCR said: “This cowardly political stunt has put our customers at risk. Upon arrival, numerous individuals had to be rushed to hospital in need of medical care. Some are already having an immigration hearing on Monday, thousands of miles away.”
It wasn’t until the plane was airborne that people were told they were going to Martha’s Vineyard and not Boston, LCR said. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has denied that the migrants were duped, claiming they signed waivers knowing where they were going.
The Martha’s Vineyard case is part of a series of legally and ethically controversial moves by Republican governors of the southern border state to transport migrants and asylum seekers to so-called liberal cities to supposedly embarrass the Biden administration in the run-up to the midterm elections. .
Texas, Arkansas and Florida governors, who say they are protesting what they describe as the federal government’s failure to secure the border, have spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars — including funds allocated for Covid relief — to help thousands transport migrants and refugees. to Washington DC, New York and Chicago. On Saturday, about 50 migrants, including a one-month-old baby, were sent on a bus from Texas to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in Washington.
The strategy, which has been condemned by the White House, Democratic officials, immigration attorneys and rights groups, has left many of the migrants and refugees trying to reunite with family members while their legal asylum applications are being processed. in court.
A protest is scheduled for Sunday when activists from the nation’s oldest and largest Latino civil rights group, the League of United Latin American Citizens (Lulac), plan to create a human chain to physically block further buses leaving Eagle Pass, Texas. to stop.
“Lulac is going to counter the political hate speech, lies and misinformation against migrants that recruiters use to entice men, women and children into despair,” said Domingo Garcia, the group’s national president. “Governors Abbott, DeSantis and others play with them like political piñatas without worrying about their well-being.”
The Venezuelan population in the US has more than doubled in the past decade amid an unprecedented exodus caused by the country’s economic and political crises, which have displaced millions of people from the once stable and prosperous South American country. The largest number live in Florida, where local attorneys and community leaders criticized DeSantis and accused the governor of political play.
On Sunday, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin criticized southern Republican governors for using migrants for “political purposes”.
“It is pathetic that these governors are taking advantage of these helpless people. … It is always the children who are the victims.”