Ron DeSantis' 'reckless decision' to bus migrants to Martha's Vineyard may be 'kidnapping': legal experts

Ron DeSantis' 'reckless decision' to bus migrants to Martha's Vineyard may be 'kidnapping': legal experts
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Legal and immigration experts are responding to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis‘ decision to send two private planes filled with undocumented immigrants to the tiny island of Martha’s Vineyard (pop.17,000), in what some are calling an inhumane political stunt, as well as a possibly illegal act, including “kidnapping.” One attorney says that would make them not only victims of a crime, but eligible for U.S. government-issued visas.

California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday afternoon sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Dept. of Justice to investigate what he said may be “criminal” acts including “kidnapping” and violations of “RICO” statutes.

Jules Bernstein, founder of Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice, and a longtime attorney who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, says DeSantis’ actions may “have constituted a federal crime.”

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“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s reckless decision to deceive 50 poor and homeless migrants from Latin America into traveling, at Florida’s citizen’s expense, to Martha’s Vineyard, by misleading them into thinking that jobs and housing awaited them, was not merely an outrageous and villainous deed. It may also have constituted a federal crime,” Bernstein writes in a letter published by The Martha’s Vineyard Times.

Civil Rights Attorney Andrew C Laufer on social media says it “could be kidnapping.”

“They usually have immigrants sign consent/waivers when they transport them. Don’t believe they’re enforceable. If they Feds get involved, since they crossed state borders, could be kidnapping. It’s not human trafficking bc DeSantis, et al didn’t exploit them for labor or sex act.”

Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor of organized crime case and served as Chief of the San Jose Branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California says, “I hope DOJ will act asap against DeSantis & this crime, which is kidnapping in violation of 18 USC § 1201. The law doesn’t require forcible taking; it applies to ‘inveigling.’ It also forbids doing so for ransom, reward or ‘otherwise,’ a term that’s interpreted broadly.”

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Immigration attorney Rachel Self, of Martha’s Vineyard, agrees the immigrants were “kidnapped.”

“The response to this crisis among the legal and humanitarian communities, and the Martha’s Vineyard community at large, has been nothing short of incredible,” Self wrote, according to The Times. “The people who arrived last night are not alone, and we will make sure they know it – this is what our community is all about. We welcome them, and we are deeply grateful for the opportunity to help them in any way we can.”

Self is preparing to take legal action.

“We believe they are victims of kidnapping, and the perpetrators of this breathtakingly cruel political stunt should know that it may well result in every individual who was induced onto those planes by fraud becoming eligible for a U visa,” she writes.

“A U visa is a nonimmigrant visa granted to victims who cooperate with law enforcement, prosecutors, or other authorities in the investigation of a crime, and in the First Circuit (the Federal jurisdiction which includes Massachusetts), people with pending U visas are protected from deportation,” Self adds.

“We call on federal, state, and local authorities to collect and preserve evidence, beginning with the tail numbers of the aircraft used in the commission of this offense. Using human beings – families and children – as political pawns says far more about Governor DeSantis’s callousness and disregard for human life than it does about the people of Martha’s Vineyard.”

She continued to blast the Florida governor who is facing a tough re-election battle against Democrat Charlie Crist.

DeSantis, she adds, “sent those planes here hoping to expose hypocrisy; he does not believe anyone when they say they care about people like migrants fleeing an oppressive socialist regime in Venezuela, because he himself cannot conceive of caring about them. He’s made it perfectly clear he views them as subhuman. He has revealed nothing but his own heartlessness – and the truth that the people of Martha’s Vineyard are as good as it gets and better embody the moral values he purports to have.”

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