Massachusetts authorities said Sunday they have requested a federal human-trafficking investigation after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted of sending about 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in a national spotlight on immigration issues.
“We call for the Department of Justice to 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, but 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 that she is pushing for an answer 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 migrants were tricked into taking flights with promises of jobs that didn’t exist. And he said he was “perplexed” to hear that President Joe Biden was “increasing resources” at the Texas border in response to the flights.
“It’s only when you have 50 illegal aliens end up in a wealthy enclave that he (Biden) decides to fight that,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis and Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott have also sent migrants to other sanctuary cities, including New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, where some were dropped off at the home of Vice President Kamala Harris.
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Massachusetts Answer: America at its best?
Governor Charlie Baker ordered shelter and humanitarian support to be provided at Joint Base Cape Cod in cooperation with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and other officials. And 125 members of the National Guard are helping the effort.
Fernandes said his state’s welcoming response to migrants reflects the best of what America can be.
“There is nothing difficult about using women, children and families as political tools,” Fernandes told MSNBC. “Ron DeSantis is a coward.”
Increase in Venezuelan migrants at the border
Venezuelan migrants are part of a global diaspora of millions 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 increase in migrants in his Texas border city are Venezuelans. He said that in recent days up to 2,000 migrants have arrived in his city and he estimates that 80% are Venezuelans.
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 of the arriving Venezuelans do not have a “sponsor,” a relative or friend who can arrange their transportation and accommodation across the border. He said the vast majority of previous migrants had a sponsor helping them get to their next destination.
“So we’re helping them work to get where they want to go,” he said. “This has been very important: we don’t send anyone where they don’t want to go.”
Cuellar: Criminal cartels exploiting weak border control
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told Face the Nation that the Border Patrol, Homeland Security and other agencies must receive the equipment and personnel needed to enforce the law. Otherwise, he said, the US will continue to see 8,000 people cross the border a day. He said the border area he represents includes some of the poorest counties in the nation.
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Cuellar said sophisticated crime cartels are exploiting weak checkpoints to move people across the US-Mexico border. He estimated that they could earn $8,000 per person and about 4 million people over the past two years.
“This shows you how these bad guys are getting rich,” he said. “Everyone he meets is in some way controlled by the bad guys.”