Local and state officials from both Texas and California are urging U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to open a criminal investigation after infamous flights backed by the Florida team of GOP Governor Ron DeSantis that took migrants to far-flung locations under reportedly false pretenses.
Those trips have included a trek to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and other travel to Sacramento, California, which is that state’s capital. Current and former GOP chief executives in Florida, Texas, and Arizona have repeatedly organized such trips, using the real-world plight of vulnerable individuals from outside the country to essentially score political points by trying to make migrants into not just a problem but their problem, meaning the issue of Democratic officials. The trips have sometimes been dangerous, however, like in the case of people left in sub-freezing temperatures outside a D.C. residence of the vice president late last year.
The new letter pushing for Justice Department action was signed by California officials Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, alongside Javier Salazar, the sheriff in Bexar County, Texas. That jurisdiction includes the Texas city of San Antonio. Though the controversial trips organized by the targeted GOP officials have been voluntary in nature, the false promises presented to those targeted to join have included the prospect of assistance with basic needs like employment and housing.
Salazar and Bonta have already begun their own investigations into the matter, looking into possibilities that include filing charges. Though not in charge of the criminal process, Newsom has also suggested the possibility of kidnapping charges that would implicate DeSantis.
“Although separate investigations into potential violations of state laws remain active, the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) has a unique capability to investigate cases where, as here, the scheme stretches from Massachusetts to California and touches upon no fewer than five states,” the letter said. “Accordingly, we urge the USDOJ to open federal criminal and civil investigations into these incidents.”
They also commented more broadly on the situation at hand.
“It is unconscionable to use people as political props by persuading them to travel to another state based on false or deceptive representations,” the officials concluded to Garland. “We urge USDOJ to investigate potential violations of federal law by those involved in this scheme. We stand ready to provide additional information about these flights and look forward to working with the USDOJ on this issue.”