Joe Guzzardi: DOJ may intervene in Florida, Texas transport plans

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Immigrants gather with their belongings outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Wednesday Sept. 14, 2022, in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday flew two planes of immigrants to Martha's Vineyard, escalating a tactic by Republican governors to draw attention to what they consider to be the Biden administration's failed border policies. (Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette via AP)

Hillary ClintonYale Law School ’73, said on MSNBC that sending 50 illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard was “literally human trafficking” by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisHarvard Law School, ‘05. The MSNBC co-host, Joe Scarborough, University of Florida School of Law ‘90, accused DeSantis of using innocent people as political pawns.

Texas Sen. Ted CruzHarvard Law School ‘95suggested that DeSantis and fellow Texan Gov. Greg AbbottVanderbilt University Law School, ’84, should send more migrants to blue cities and states. Cruz, pointing to the millions of illegal immigrants that the administration has admitted, bussed, and flown around the nation, called President Joe BidenSyracuse University School of Law ’68 and former Senate Judiciary Chair, “the biggest human trafficker on the face of the planet.” Biden demanded that the governors stop their “un-American” political stunts.

Clinton, Scarborough, and Biden have support from like-minded lawyers. Professors from Notre Dame, Georgetown, and other universities, along with civil rights advocates, came down hard on DeSantis and Abbott. The harshest criticism came from Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who requested that the Department of Justice open an investigation into the Martha’s Vineyard flights on charges that the migrants were “kidnapped.”

Move along. Nothing to see here; just angry lawyers going after each other, hammer and tongs. The voting public, however, is grappling with a contradiction. If the Biden administration can order Customs and Border Patrol to put thousands of aliens on buses and planes to send them throughout the interior of the United States, then the same flexibility should apply to the governors, assuming, of course, that the migrants agree to be flown to Martha’s Vineyard or driven to Washington, D.C. or New York.

Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor, provided his perspective. Turley wrote that to call transporting aliens kidnapping is “to take a flight from one’s legal senses.” On his blog, Turley stated that human trafficking, a legal term, is altogether different than moving humans in traffic. The governors’ actions aren’t an attempt to put humans, through fraud, coercion, or force, into peonage, involuntary servitude, or sex slavery. In conclusion, Turley wrote that many objections could be made to the governors’ transport programs, but not kidnapping and human trafficking.

The tensions between the states and the cities are just beginning. DeSantis promised to fly more migrants to other sanctuary cities, but not necessarily Martha’s Vineyard. That way, DeSantis explained, the sanctuaries can “put their money where their mouth is.” A possible 2024 presidential candidate, DeSantis may sense that while some American voters support immigration, they object to Biden-style open borders.

Political expediency is at play in Texas, too. Abbott is up for re-election in November, and he’s counting on removing illegal immigrants as integral to his victory. The border invasion is expensive. As part of its $4 billion Operation Lone Star program, Texas has installed more than 42 miles of concertina wire along its Southern border near Eagle Pass and Del Rio, two communities through which millions have passed.

A potential roadblock – a boulder, really – may stand in the governors’ way. In a statement, the Boston nonprofit, Lawyers for Civil Rights, promised to investigate “the inhumane manner in which they [the Martha’s Vineyard migrants]were shipped across the country, to determine the responsible parties, whether state or federal criminal laws against human trafficking and kidnapping were violated, and what other legal remedies are available.”

Even though no evidence exists that the migrants were treated inhumanely, and as Turley warned, trafficking and kidnapping are specious charges, LCR will press on. The legal advocates hope to gather pro bono attorneys, immigration experts, law enforcement, and social services providers.

If that’s not enough, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco confirmed that the DOJ is reviewing inquiries like Newsom’s calling for an investigation. The DOJ’s involvement, inevitable in the Biden administration, especially if the governors escalate, would be the end of the line for the governors’ strategy to give sanctuary cities a tiny taste of their own medicine. Not a single voice among the many urged border enforcement.

Joe Guzzardi is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about immigration and related social issues. Joe joined Progressives for Immigration Reform in 2018 as an analyst after a ten-year career directing media relations for Californians for Population Stabilization, where he also was a Senior Writing Fellow. A native Californian, Joe now lives in Pennsylvania. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.