Massachusetts seeks human trafficking probe targeting Florida Gov. DeSantis over migrants
John Bacon and Rachael Devaney, USA TODAY – September 18, 2022
Authorities in Massachusetts said Sunday that they have requested a federal human trafficking probe after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted of sending about 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard to shine a national spotlight on immigration issues.
“We are requesting that the Department of Justice open an investigation to hold DeSantis and others accountable for these inhumane acts,” state Rep. Dylan Fernandes tweeted Sunday. “Not only is it morally criminal, there are legal implications around fraud, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, and human trafficking.”
Fernandes said he had spoken with Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins and was “grateful to hear she is pushing for a response from the DOJ.”
The migrants were picked up in Texas, but DeSantis said the flights were part of a $12 million Florida program to transport undocumented immigrants to so-called sanctuary destinations. DeSantis denied claims that the migrants were duped into taking the flights with promises of jobs that did not exist. And he said he was “perplexed” to hear that President Joe Biden was “surging resources” to the Texas border in response to the flights.
“It’s only when you have 50 illegal aliens end up in a wealthy rich enclave that he (Biden) decides to scramble at this,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis and Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott have also sent migrants to other sanctuary cities, including New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., where some were dropped off outside the home of Vice President Kamala Harris.
‘I SIMPLY FEEL MISLED’:Migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard speak out; DeSantis vows to keep relocating migrants
Massachusetts response: America at its best?
Gov. Charlie Baker ordered shelter and humanitarian support be provided at Joint Base Cape Cod in cooperation with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and other officials. And 125 National Guard Members are aiding the effort.
Fernandes said the welcoming response being provided the migrants by his state reflects the best of what America can be.
“There is nothing tough about using women and children and families as your political tools,” Fernandes said on MSNBC. “Ron DeSantis is a coward.”
Surge of Venezuelan migrants at border
The Venezuelan migrants are among a global diaspora of millions of people who left the country to escape a depressed economy and a dictatorial regime amid power outages, lack of access to reliable water, rampant inflation and political turmoil. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said the biggest surge of migrants in his Texas border city are Venezuelans. He said in recent days as many as 2,000 migrants have arrived in his city and he estimates 80% are Venezuelan.
Leeser, in an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” said the biggest challenge facing him, city officials and the U.S. Border Patrol is that up to half the Venezuelans arriving have no “sponsor,” a family member or friend who can arrange for their transportation and housing beyond the border. He said the vast majority of previous migrants had a sponsor to help them get to their next destination.
“So, we’re helping them working to get them to where they want to go,” he said. “So that’s been really important – that we don’t send anyone where they don’t want to go.”
Cuellar: Crime cartels exploiting weak border control
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told Face the Nation that the Border Patrol, Homeland Security and other agencies must be provided equipment and personnel they need to enforce the law. Otherwise, he said, the U.S. will continue to see 8,000 people crossing the border a day. He said the border area he represents includes some of the poorest counties in the nation.
Cuellar said says sophisticated crime cartels are exploiting weak checkpoints to move people across the U.S.-Mexico border. He estimated they might make $8,000 a person – and about 4 million people over the last two years.
“That shows you how much these bad guys are being enriched,” he said. “Everybody that comes across is somehow controlled by the bad guys.”