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How Dozens of Migrants Were Sent to Martha’s Vineyard and DC

WASHINGTON — This week, a pair of Southern Republican governors used scores of immigrants in a political stunt designed to criticize Democrats over the state of the nation’s immigration system, loading immigrants onto planes and buses bound for heavily progressives in the north.

But while the political message of the governor. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas was clear, the steep drops left uncertainty about what would happen to the human beings involved and raised complicated questions about how the immigration system works, what rights immigrants have, and what legal issues are involved.

Immigration attorneys and legal observers said they were still determining whether any laws were broken when Abbott sent nearly 100 immigrants, including children, to be dropped off by bus unannounced outside the vice president’s residence in Washington, and when DeSantis arranged for about 50 more to fly on charter planes to Martha’s Vineyard, the island vacation spot of Massachusetts.

This is what we know so far.

The migrants transported to Martha’s Vineyard are Venezuelans who recently crossed the southwest border without authorization and turned themselves in to border officials. The migrants who were dropped off at the home of Vice President Kamala Harris were from Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Nicaragua and Panama and entered the country in the same way.

After they were detained, they were examined and released to face future proceedings. The Biden administration has been using this process with nearly all Cubans and Venezuelans crossing the border because it lacks the diplomatic relations with those countries that would be necessary to send them back to those countries.

But it is likely that many of the migrants plan to apply for asylum, stating that they face violence or persecution in their home countries and fear returning. Under US law, any migrant has the right to do so, starting a process in which federal officials determine if the claim is valid and they can obtain authorization to legally reside in the United States.

That process faces a delay of years, which means that these immigrants, like many in the United States, live in a state of immigration limbo.

Under the law, once border officials release migrants and serve papers to appear in court, they are no longer in federal custody and are free to travel within the United States. It is not illegal for a state government to pay for that trip.

But if there is evidence that state officials lied to migrants about where they were going or what lay ahead, as some lawyers have alleged, the migrants could file lawsuits for fraud or serious emotional distress, according to Heidi Li Feldman, a professor. at Georgetown University.

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Boston Lawyers for Civil Rights, which represents some of the migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard, said his clients were denied their constitutional right to due process, as the trip to Massachusetts likely mean that they will not be able to attend their immigration court dates in San Antonio, Texas.

“If they coerce and induce you to get on a plane with false promises and they tell you that you will fly to one place and they will direct you to another place in the air, that is a deprivation of liberty that the Constitution prohibits,” said Mr. Espinoza- Madrigal.

So some lawyers have said that federal agents deliberately listed the migrants’ wrong addresses, which would prevent them from receiving proper notices for their immigration hearings. But it was not clear if any laws were broken; It is not uncommon for a federal agent confronting a migrant who does not have an address in the United States to list the name of a homeless shelter at the destination the migrant says they are headed to.

While critics have likened DeSantis and Abbott’s actions to human smuggling or kidnapping, several lawyers question the possibility that they could be prosecuted for such crimes because no evidence has surfaced that the migrants boarded the flights. or buses reluctantly.

Nonprofits have for years helped immigrants pay for flights and buses to join friends and family in the United States.

But the plan for the government to use immigrant arrival points in Democratic cities and towns dates back to the administration of former President Donald J. Trump, when Stephen Miller, his top adviser and architect of his immigration policies, adopted it. Miller and other immigration hardliners in the administration saw the move as a way to retaliate against so-called sanctuary cities that limited their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The idea was ultimately scrapped after it was rejected by Matthew Albence, then acting deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who raised concerns about liability issues if a migrant was injured in transit. He also said that the agency’s budget had not been allocated for deliveries.

Criticism of recent immigrant arrivals has drew comparisons to the so-called Reverse Freedom Rides organized by white segregationists in 1962 to retaliate against those protesting segregation in the South.

Segregationists deceptively promised black Americans permanent jobs and housing, prompting some 200 of them to travel north. Those families were also dropped off in Massachusetts, near President John F. Kennedy’s vacation home.


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