Civil rights lawyers call on Healey and Rollins to open criminal probe into migrant plight

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican and possible 2024 presidential candidate, said his administration arranged for the migrants to travel by private plane from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard with a brief stopover in Florida.

In his letters to Healey and Rollins, Espinoza-Madrigal wrote that the migrants were “coaxed into boarding planes and crossing state lines under false pretenses” and only learned during the flight that They were heading for Martha’s Vineyard, not Boston as they had been. Told.

“Individuals, working in concert with the Governor of Florida, have made numerous false promises to our clients, including job opportunities, schooling for their children, and immigration assistance, in order to entice them to travel,” he wrote. “Once the planes landed, those who had enticed our customers to travel under these false pretenses disappeared, leaving our customers to learn that the offers of assistance had all been a ruse to exploit them for political gain.”

On Saturday, a spokeswoman for Rollins said her office had “no comment at this time.” On Friday, Rollins said in a Globe Summit interview that she was weighing possible legal options.

“It’s sad that we’re in a situation where political stunts are being used and human beings are being exploited, quite frankly, for political gain,” she said at the event.

A representative for Healey, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, released a statement late Saturday saying the attorney general will “evaluate all legal options.”

“Our office continues to review all information relevant to this situation. We are in contact with our federal and state partners, as well as attorneys representing migrants, as we gather facts and evaluate all legal options,” the statement said.

The main concerns of migrants, Espinoza-Madrigal said, relate to their obligations and meeting deadlines for their immigration cases, an obstacle that was complicated by their trip to Massachusetts. About 50 migrants are on the base and more than half are represented by civil rights lawyers.

The migrants surrendered to immigration officials when they entered the United States, applied for immigration protections and were released, he said.

This triggered legal action, including requirements to register with immigration authorities or appear in court. For some migrants, the process takes place in Texas, where they were recruited to board planes that took them to Martha’s Vineyard, Espinoza-Madrigal said.

But other migrants are expected to appear in places such as Washington or Virginia, he said, because their government documents indicated they planned to reside in those states while their immigration cases were pending.

How those addresses were recorded on the migrants’ government documents is unclear, according to Espinoza-Madrigal. Some of the migrants said they did not know how the addresses were assigned to them or did not recall being asked about an address in the United States, he said.

Another possibility is that the addresses were written on the migrants’ papers by immigration officials, Espinoza-Madrigal said. In letters to Healey and Rollins, he said the trip to Massachusetts interfered with the migrants’ “ability to comply with federal immigration obligations, such as attendance at hearings and registrations.”

Migrants meet pro bono lawyers, who have volunteered to help them, in private rooms near a cafeteria on the base, he said.

Governor Charlie Baker said he was ready to mobilize up to 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to help migrants at the base. On Saturday, a spokesperson for the Guard asked questions of Baker’s office, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services has purchased cellphones for all migrants, and state lawmakers are focused on meeting their immediate needs, said state Sen. Julian Cyr, a Democrat who represents communities across the country. upper Cape and the islands.

The group, he said, will “need support for a while”.

“They have just arrived after a perilous journey of several months… fleeing an oppressive regime,” Cyr said. So “they probably won’t leave the country anytime soon”.

Migrants have access to medical care and transportation is arranged for them, Espinoza-Madrigal said. Some asked about opportunities to play soccer and their children’s education.

Volunteer lawyers escorted them to the field on Friday to ease the transition and allay concerns given the threats they face from the military in Venezuela, he said. They read reports about their ordeal.

“The nature of the politicization of immigration issues in this country surprised our clients,” said Espinoza-Madrigal.

Ivy Scott of Globe staff contributed to this report.


Laura Crmaldi can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.

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