Lawyers representing dozens of illegal immigrants flown into Martha’s Vineyard last week are demanding that federal and state prosecutors open a criminal case on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying state officials misled the migrants into making the trip.
Lawyers for Civil Rights accused Florida of targeting the migrants “based on race and national origin” in an attempt to make a political statement.
But LCR, which counts about 30 of the migrants as clients, said the trip was not without consequences for the illegal immigrants, who may miss immigration check-ins and were left on an island where job prospects for adults and education opportunities for children are in slim supply.
“They preyed on the vulnerability of our clients — many of whom had suffered deep trauma in their home countries and on their journeys to the United States — and exploited this vulnerability to win trust through false promises,” LCR Executive Director Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal said in letters sent Saturday to Massachusetts’ attorney general and U.S. attorney.
LCR said migrants were told they could find work, schools and immigration assistance if they got on the planes and headed north. Some migrants said they were told they would head to Boston, only to be told mid-flight they were going to Martha’s Vineyard, LCR said.
The officials who got the migrants on the planes then “disappeared,” leaving it to locals on the island to respond to the new arrivals, LCR said.
The demand for criminal charges is the latest escalation in a battle over the chaos of the border under President Biden.
Mr. DeSantis is weighing a potential presidential run in 2024, and his move to fly the migrants — and the fierce denunciations from his opponents — underscore the high stakes at play.
Florida officials, and those in Texas and Arizona, which have been busing migrants for months, have said they are trying to share the pain of the surge of illegal immigrants who’ve arrived at their doorstep thanks to the more lenient border policies of Mr. Biden.
Roughly 200,000 illegal immigrants jump the border every month and well more than half of them are caught and released, most in border states but some in the interior after being shipped deeper by the federal government.
Some of the migrants say they intend to lodge claims of asylum, though most of those claims will fail, based on historical data. But the Biden administration says the migrants can remain here while their cases are pending — a process that usually takes years — and experts said that chance at a foothold is enticing even more to make the journey.