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Migrants sent by Florida’s Republican governor to Democratic city say ‘were misled’

This file photo shows law enforcement officials along with US Coast Guard sailing near a sailboat containing approximately 150 migrants in Islandia, Florida, the US, on July 21, 2022. (By AFP)

A group of migrants who were sent by Florida’s Republican administration to the Democratic resort island of Martha’s Vineyard say they were misled about where they were being sent and what was awaiting them there.

The migrants and immigration lawyers told The New York Times on Friday that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had given the migrants wrong information about their destination and promised employment and accommodation opportunities.

With just weeks before crucial midterm elections in the United States, DeSantis, who is a Republican, has been relocating groups of migrants traveling or planning to travel to his state to Democratic cities. DeSantis hopes the move — described by opponents as a political stunt — would entangle the Democratic cities in trouble often faced by the border state of Texas and other states with Republican administrations that happen to be the primary destinations for thousands of migrants from Latin America.

The White House has termed that Republican ploy “petty and dangerous.”

One immigration lawyer said the migrants had been initially told they would be flown to Boston but had learned only midair that they were en route to Martha’s Vineyard.

“They were also told there would be employment opportunities and immigration relief available to them if they boarded the plane,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the executive director for Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston.

Experts say DeSantis and a handful of other Republican governors involved in similar ploys are violating the civil rights of the migrants, who have a legal right to seek asylum in the United States.

“That’s not only state interference with federal immigration matters, it’s also a violation of our clients’ civil rights,” Espinoza-Madrigal said.

Critics also say the migrants’ fates are being tangled in domestic political fights in the US.

The Republican governors, including Greg Abbott of Texas, claim the US’s borders are “open” and their states are bearing the brunt of migration. While US President Joe Biden has relaxed some of the toughest restrictions on immigration that had been put in place by his predecessor, Donald Trump, authorities have been blocking hundreds of thousands of migrants invoking a pandemic-era rule known as Title 42.

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