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Lawyers for migrants who flew to Martha’s Vineyard are calling for a criminal investigation

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18 Sep (News) — Attorneys representing 30 migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week are urging federal and prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into what they call a “political stunt.”

Civil rights attorneys sent letters to U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins for the District of Massachusetts and State Attorney General Maura Healey on Saturday night, urging them to officially open criminal investigations after two chartered planes carrying 50 migrants aboard crashed from Texas on Wednesday flew to Florida to Martha’s Vineyard.

DeSantis said his state paid for the flights as part of its so-called immigrant resettlement program to “insulate” Florida from the effects of federal government immigration policies.

The lawyers arrived in Martha’s Vineyard Thursday to meet with the migrants and in their letters told prosecutors they “strongly believe” criminal laws have been broken.

“Our clients have been tricked into boarding planes and crossing state borders under false pretenses,” LCR executive director Ivan Spinoza-Madrigal and trial director Oren Sellstrom wrote in the letters. “Working with the Florida governor, individuals have made numerous false promises to our customers, including job opportunities, schooling for their children, and immigration assistance to entice them to travel.”

The letters said the migrants were only told during the flight that they were being taken to Martha’s Vineyard and not Boston because they were informed before boarding the planes. And once they landed on the island, those who had convinced them to board the planes “disappeared,” the lawyers said, letting their clients know the offers of help were untrue.

“This behavior deprived our clients of their liberty through deception. It affected their ability to comply with federal immigration obligations, such as B. attending hearings and check-ins political point they wanted,” the letters said.

The migrants were also housed in hotels until flights could be coordinated, in what lawyers described as a “conspiracy to deprive our clients of their liberty and civil rights.”

“They took advantage of the vulnerability of our customers — many of whom had suffered deep trauma in their home countries and during their travels to the United States — and exploited that vulnerability to gain trust through false promises.”

Since Wednesday, DeSantis has repeatedly defended the action, with his office telling News in a statement over the weekend that the resettlement program aims to shut down people smugglers, traffickers and other criminals and discourage irregular immigration into Florida.

The Republican governor has said he has $12 million for that move plan, with state records showing Florida paid $615,000 for last week’s charter flights.

On Saturday, he said during a news conference that those flown to Martha’s Vineyard were identified in Texas as heading for Florida and were offered free transportation to “protected areas” instead.

He said more migrants are likely to be sent north on buses and planes.

“Let me tell you this: The legislature gave me $12 million. We will spend every penny to make sure we keep the people of Florida safe,” he said.

The letters were sent by civil rights attorneys amid calls for criminal prosecution of DeSantis and others.

Massachusetts State Assemblyman Dylan Fernandes said in a statement that he spoke with Rollins, who informed him she was “pushing” for a response from the Justice Department about the opening of an investigation.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also “urged” Attorney General Merrick Garland late last week to investigate whether charges of kidnapping and the Racketeers Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act could be filed in the case.

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