The Department of Justice has been tapped by California Governor Gavin Newsom to investigate whether Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s controversial decision to send two flights of migrants north would amount to “kidnapping”.
“I strongly urge the U.S. Department of Justice (US DOJ) to open an investigation into possible criminal or civil violations of federal law based on this alleged fraudulent scheme,” Gov Newsom wrote in a 15 September letter addressed to US Attorney General Merrick Garland.
On Wednesday afternoon, 50 migrants arrived at an airport on Martha’s Vineyard after being brought there under a plan that the Republican Florida governor later confirmed was part of the state’s relocation programme to “transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,” the governor’s communications director, Taryn Fenske, told Fox News Digital.
Images of the people, who had reportedly been lured onto planes from shelters in Texas under false promises of jobs and housing, dominated the news cycle as critics, immigration activists and later, the White House, labelled it a “dangerous stunt”.
The Democratic governor, who many speculate could make a run for president in 2024, quickly turned his emotional response to the new story into a political one by flagging his concerns to the Department of Justice that the Republican governor’s actions might be not just “morally reprehensible” but “illegal”.
“Several of the individuals who were transported to Martha’s Vineyard have alleged that a recruiter induced them to accept the offer of travel based on false representations that they would be transported to Boston and would receive expedited access to work authorization,” wrote Mr Newsom.
Among the chief concerns outlined in the letter, the Democrat asked that the DoJ “investigate whether the alleged fraudulent inducement would support charges of kidnapping under relevant state laws.”
In addition to the kidnapping probe, the governor also asked that the department investigate whether the “alleged targeting” of migrants based on their national origin “constituted a civil rights conspiracy”.
“Although I believe US DOJ’s investigation should include these possible avenues, there may be others US DOJ can and should pursue,” the California governor signed off in the letter, which was shared on his public Twitter account with caption: “What @GovRonDeSantis and @GregAbbott_TX are doing isn’t clever, it’s cruel.”
In addition to the flights of migrants being dropped in Massachusetts – without warning from the Florida governor – this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott also sent two migrant buses carrying between 75 and 100 people to park outside the home of vice president Kamala Harris in Washington DC.
Those buses arrived Thursday morning after setting off from Del Rio, Texas, according to Fox News Digital.
Republican governors in Texas and Arizona have for months been sending buses of migrants arriving on their states’ southern border to northern cities, a move that has angered federal officials in DC who have called the journeys a dangerous political stunt that is ultimately slowing down federal processes.
“It is shameful, it is reckless, and just plain wrong,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday as news of Mr DeSantis’s relocation program continued to send shockwaves through the nation’s capital.
The “deeply alarming” stunt gave an immigration meeting between cabinet heads and White House officials on Friday morning, which had been scheduled before Wednesday’s migrant flights, an added edge, with Axios reporting that the high-ranking officials planned to discuss possible “litigation options” that federal officials could use to respond to the crisis.
Details of what those proposals would be were not available, but the meeting expected to draw attendees from Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Defence, the outlet reported.
Though Mr DeSantis gave no warning to the elected officials in DC or Massachusetts about his intentions to fly out dozens of migrants to the small vacation island on Wednesday, he did give that forewarning to hundreds of GOP donors just days before the flights took off.
At a private fundraising event held last weekend, Mr DeSantis boasted of his plot that would later dominate the news with images of confused migrants in Martha’s Vineyard and scatter local officials, who were not treated to the same tipoff that attendees at that Orlando meeting received.
According to The Washington Post, who spoke with two of the attendees on condition of anonymity, the Republican governor gave a rousing speech in Orlando over the weekend where he described plans to transport migrants to places like Martha’s Vineyard, Chicago and other northern cities that are commonly known as sanctuary jurisdictions.
“I do have this money. I want to be helpful. Maybe we will go to Texas and help. Maybe we’ll send to Chicago, Hollywood, Martha’s Vineyard. Who knows?” Mr DeSantis reportedly said to a roomful of applause in a speech delivered on Friday evening at the Four Seasons in Orlando, less than a week before the two planes would land in Martha’s Vineyard.
The room in the hotel reception hall was reportedly bustling with some of the Republican Party’s top donors, who had all gathered to hear the right-leaning politician deliver what attendees told The Post was a clear outline of what his platform issues would be in a potential 2024 presidential run.
At one point, Mr DeSantis highlighted the work of other Republican governors who had been carrying out similar bussing relocation efforts in their states, specifically calling out the Texas Governor’s buses to DC, Chicago and New York as “brilliant.”
“I think it’s been very effective,” he said of flooding liberal cities with migrants.