Democrat California Governor Gavin Newsom, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, released a letter sent to the Biden Justice Department Thursday calling for a federal investigation of Wednesday’s two flights of 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts for kidnapping, RICO and civil rights charges. The flights were coordinated by one of Newsom’s potential 2024 rivals, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
The Martha’s Vineyard flights were followed Thursday morning with a surprise delivery of two busloads of migrants to Kamala Harris’ residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Newsom is basing his charges on an NPR report that some of the migrants said they were told they were being flown to Boston and would receive help with work papers.
NPR was able to interview three of the migrants late Wednesday. “They (the migrants) told us they had recently crossed the border in Texas and were staying at a shelter in San Antonio,” NPR’s Joel Rose said on Morning Edition.
The migrants said a woman they identified as “Perla” approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane, saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers. She provided them with food. The migrants said Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.
Andres Duarte, a 30-year-old Venezuelan, said he had recently crossed the border into Texas and eventually went to a shelter in San Antonio.
“She (Perla) offered us help. Help that never arrived,” Andres said. “Now we are here. We got on the plane with a vision of the future, of making it.” He went on to explain why he boarded the plane with so little information in hand. “Look, when you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot.”
…Most of the arrivals spoke little or no English, and Spanish-speaking high school students were pressed into service as interpreters.
Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said many of the migrants were confused.
“We have talked to a number of people who’ve asked, ‘Where am I?’ And then I was trying to explain where Martha’s Vineyard is.”
Newsom’s letter to the Justice Department was posted to Twitter where he snarked at DeSantis and Abbott, “What @GovRonDeSantis and @GregAbbott_TX are doing isn’t clever, it’s cruel. I’m formally requesting the DOJ begin an immediate investigation into these inhumane efforts to use kids as political pawns.”
I’m formally requesting the DOJ begin an immediate investigation into these inhumane efforts to use kids as political pawns. pic.twitter.com/x2sBa06nSw
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 15, 2022
Dear Attorney General Garland,
Like millions of Americans, I have been horrified at the images of migrants being shipped on buses and planes across the country to be used as political props. Clearly, transporting families, including children, across state lines under false pretenses is morally reprehensible, but it may also be 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. The interstate travel at issue provides a basis for federal jurisdiction over this matter.
Accordingly, 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. In particular, I urge US DOJ to investigate whether the alleged fraudulent inducement would support charges of kidnapping under relevant state laws, which could serve as a predicate offense for charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) provisions of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.
Additionally, based on the allegations, the recruiters targeted the individuals based on their national origin, and the intent appears to have been to humiliate and dehumanize them. Accordingly, I urge US DOJ to investigate whether the alleged targeting of these individuals based on their national origin, in violation of their right to equal protection under the law, constituted a civil rights conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. section 1895.
Finally, although I believe US DOJ’s investigation should include these possible avenues, there may be others US DOJ can and should pursue.
I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration on protecting human rights.
Several reporters at Thursday’s White House press briefing also called on the Biden administration to prosecute the migrant flights and busing. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did not give a ‘yes’ answer.
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AP's Darlene Superville: "Is the administration looking into whether bussing migrants around the country is legal?"
KJP: "So…there is a process in place [at the border]…Republican governors interfering…using migrants as political pawns is shameful, is reckless, &…wrong." pic.twitter.com/kKSrX80ddP
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 15, 2022