Democrats call for justice department to investigate migrant flights

  • In US
  • 2022-09-23 20:38:05Z
  • By The Guardian
Photograph: Ray Ewing/AP
Photograph: Ray Ewing/AP  

Democratic lawmakers have called on the US justice department to investigate whether Florida and Texas officials broke any federal law when they moved dozens of Venezuelan asylum seekers from Texas to Martha's Vineyard under allegedly false pretenses.

The letter from the congressional representatives Gerry Connolly, Sylvia Garcia, Ted Lieu and dozens of other Democrats followed the emergence of a report in which a 27-year-old Venezuelan said he was paid $200 by a mystery figure known as "Perla" to find people outside the San Antonio migrant center to board a flight.

The migrant, who was called Emmanuel, told the San Antonio Report that he gave Perla contact information for 10 other migrants.

"As the federal government retains jurisdiction over cases that involve interstate travel, we request the Department of Justice investigate whether any federal funds were used to operate a fraudulent scheme and request the Department of Justice make a determination as to whether officials in Texas and Florida violated federal law," the letter said.

At least one criminal investigation has already been opened into the situation by a Texas sheriff, and Connolly and others said the justice department should do the same.

Multiple media reports have depicted how the asylum seekers had been misled once they arrived in Texas and were incorrectly told they were being flown to Boston.

"It is alleged that immigration officials knowingly falsified mailing addresses for the migrants by selecting arbitrary homeless shelters across the United States, with the expectation that migrants would be required to contact the wrong agency," the letter said.

Details have not yet emerged about the planning and execution of the plan, which was spearheaded by the office of the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis has defended his administration's actions and denied that migrants were misled.

The Democrats pointed out that the migrants who were used in what was called a political "stunt" were fleeing communism, authoritarianism and violence, having walked thousands of miles for what they called a "dignified life".

Justice department officials declined to comment.

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