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Attorneys representing more than 30 migrants flown to Massachusetts urge criminal investigations

Sep 17, 2022, 9:19 PM
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: People call words of encouragement up to people held inside the Metropolitan Detention Center after marching to decry Trump administration immigration and refugee policies on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Although President Trump was forced to reverse his policy of removing all children from their immigrant or asylum-seeking parents, little clarity appears to be seen as to how agencies can fulfill a court order to reunite thousands of children and parents detained far apart by multiple agencies. Yesterday, the Justice Department filed papers in a Los Angeles federal court to have families arrested for illegal border crossings incarcerated together indefinitely. The rally is one of more than 700 such protests being held throughout the nation. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Attorneys representing more than 30 of the migrants flown to Massachusetts this week asked the US Attorney for Massachusetts and the state’s attorney general to open criminal investigations into the flights.

Lawyers for Civil Rights, which provides free legal support for communities of color and immigrants, criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, calling the flights a “political stunt,” in a press release Saturday.

DeSantis sent two planes carrying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this week, in a move that infuriated Democratic politicians and underscored ongoing efforts by Republican governors to transport migrants to northern liberal enclaves to protest what they say are inadequate federal efforts on southern border security.

Located off the coast of Massachusetts and long known as a posh summer destination for wealthy vacationers, Martha’s Vineyard provided an unusual and unexpected place for the migrants to be sent.

James Hagerty, the Edgartown town administrator, told CNN on Thursday that officials believe all of the migrants originated in Venezuela. A local fire chief said earlier in the day that the migrants included seven families, with four children ranging from 3 to 8 years old.

Community members from the island quickly rallied to help the migrants by donating food and clothing. Additionally, residents and others from different parts of the country raised more than $175,000 after the migrants’ arrival, according to Beth Folcarelli, CEO of the nonprofit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

The migrants’ attorneys said that their clients were not aware that they were being taken to Martha’s Vineyard specifically.

Florida, Texas escalate flights, buses to move migrants

They were induced to board the planes with “representations of work assistance and immigration relief in Boston,” the attorneys said in a news release.

DeSantis has pushed back on claims that the migrants did not know where they were going, because he said they had signed a waiver and had been provided with a packet including a map of Martha’s Vineyard adding, “It’s obvious that’s where they were going,” and it was all “voluntary.”

US Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins told reporters Thursday she would be speaking with members of the Department of Justice about DeSantis’ actions, saying she did not yet have enough information to say whether he broke any laws in sending the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. She added that their first priority is making sure the people who arrived were treated respectfully.

A spokeswoman for Rollins’ office in Massachusetts told CNN on Saturday they did not have any further comment.

Chloe Gotsis, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, told CNN on Saturday that the office is working to “review all information relevant.”

“We are in touch with our federal and state partners, along with attorneys representing the migrants, as we gather facts and evaluate all legal options,” Gotsis said.

CNN previously reported that the migrants were taken to a military base Friday morning to receive shelter and humanitarian support, according to officials.

DeSantis has vowed to continue his efforts in relocating migrants.

“These are just the beginning efforts,” the Florida governor said. “We’ve got an infrastructure in place now. There’s going to be a lot more that’s happening.”


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Attorneys representing more than 30 migrants flown to Massachusetts urge criminal investigations