Attorney: Migrants were kidnapped
“An attorney who specializes in immigration law says what happened to the 50 people brought to Martha’s Vineyard may be considered kidnapping.
Rachel Self, an Island attorney, issued a statement saying that she is looking at potential legal avenues after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took credit for sending the 50 people to Martha’s Vineyard on two planes.
“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. “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 said she will pursue all legal remedies. “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. 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 wrote. “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. He 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.”
On Wednesday night, Self and other immigration attorneys met with attorneys after speaking with some of the migrants. Self held up maps that vaguely showed the migrants where they were being taken on the planes.
She’s not alone. Jules Bernstein, a Chilmark attorney who has argued labor law before the U.S. Supreme Court, also called the actions by DeSantis potentially criminal in a letter to The Times citing a federal law that makes it illegal for anyone who “transports, or moves or attempts to transport or move such alien within the United States by means of transportation or otherwise.”
Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee and Oak Bluffs Police Chief Jonathan Searle told The Times there is no active local criminal investigation and they doubt that it’s in their jurisdiction. Island emergency personnel have been concentrating on getting the individuals what they need, McNamee said.
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe questioned whether there was anything criminal.
“We prosecute, in the DA’s office, criminal activity. If somebody alleges that a crime has been committed, and there is probable cause to believe it, the police would take action by way of conducting an investigation. And then present the matter to the DA’s office if they were concerned about whether they had enough to proceed criminally.”
In response to Self’s allegation that crimes have been committed, including kidnapping, O’Keefe questioned, “what evidence does this attorney have?’”
When asked by The Times if the individuals on the plane having been transported to a location unbeknownst to them would be deemed criminal, O’Keefe asked if those complaints have been filed with local law enforcement. He said it would be up to the towns — and sheriff — to “amass any evidence.”
O’Keefe said criminal charges could potentially be pursued “If [local law enforcement] amassed any evidence that would show somebody was kidnapped or be brought to a place to be put into some kind of slavery or somethign of that nature.”
He said “in order for there to be any consequence from that, there’d have to be an investigation by the police, and the amassing of some evidence.”
O’Keefe said he has not heard any suggestion that a crime has been committed, “or that [the migrants] are fearful.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Keating D-Bourne, who is a former Norfolk County DA, told The Times Thursday afternoon he couldn’t recall any criminal statute that would apply to the migrant’s plight. “I’m curious as to why everyone aboard thought they were going to Boston,” Keating said, “and all of a sudden it was diverted to the Vineyard. So I think it would be interesting to find out how that occurred or if that was the destination in the first place … beyond that I don’t think it’s a crime.”
Nonetheless, Keating deemed what the migrants have been subjected to as repugnant. Keating went on to say the migrants “were told they would have jobs and housing” and were led to “a vacant parking lot near Community Services.”
Keating said the migrants “were very anxious to leave” from what he’s learned has become a “crowded” situation.
“They thought they were heading to Boston,” he said. Some of those people, he said, “had other connections planned from Boston.”
In response to comments that Martha’s Vineyard does not have an existing infrastructure or plan to handle a situation such as this, and is not set up in a way that allows the Island to be prepared for an influx of migrants, O’Keefe responded, “and Arizona and New Mexico are?”
“My respectful suggestion would be to talk to the police and see whether or not they are conducting an investigation with respect to whether there’s a violation to a Massachusetts statute here.”
O’Keefe said he has not been engaged by any entities regarding the unfolding situation prior to speaking with The Times.
Reporters Abigail Rosen and Rich Saltzberg contributed to this report.“
Post a Comment