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Immigration Law

Did DeSantis and Abbott Break Law with Migrant 'Stunt'? Experts Weigh In

Tom Norton, Newsweek, Sept. 17, 2022

"Florida governor Ron DeSantis was strongly criticized this week after claiming responsibility for ordering two planeloads of migrants to travel from Texas to Martha's Vineyard. ... California Governor Gavin Newsom has said that DeSantis should be investigated for possible kidnapping and racketeering charges for the move, calling on the Department of Justice to act. ... According to one prominent expert in immigration law, the chances of a human trafficking charge are very slim. Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of Immigration Law Practice at Cornell Law School, told Newsweek the situation was unlikely to meet the grounds for a credible human trafficking case under either state or federal laws. "Each law varies, but many laws define human trafficking as recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. "As such, I think it is an exaggeration to claim that governors in Republican states are engaging in human trafficking by sending migrants to other states. In most cases that I have heard about, migrants have been happy to accept bus or plane tickets, even if they don't know where they are going." Professor Yale-Loehr argued that while federal law prohibiting illegal transportation of migrants presented theoretically steadier grounds for criminal prosecutions, the chances of even that sticking were vanishingly thin. "That presents a closer case than the human trafficking argument. Still, illegal transportation prosecutions and convictions are very rare. They are mainly aimed at smuggling operations. Thus, I think it is unlikely that Republican governors would be prosecuted under this law. "The bottom line is that it is an exaggeration to claim that Republican governors are violating human trafficking laws or violating laws that bar illegal transportation of migrants." ... Transportation and the welfare of the people sent to Martha's Vineyard may not be the only avenues for legal investigation either, with commentators questioning the legality of funding behind the scheme and the paperwork associated with it."