DC’s Attorney General is launching an investigation into Republican governors’ relocation of migrants to the capital

Governor Greg Abbott and others have sent thousands of migrants to Washington. DC County Attorney General Karl Racine is investigating.

THE TEXAS TRIBUNE – District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine has launched an investigation into whether southern border state governors misled immigrants as part of what he called a “political ploy” to get them into Washington to transport.

Racine told ProPublica and The Texas Tribune his office checks to see if immigrants have been deceived by tour operators before boarding buses bound for Washington, including several hundred who were busted on instructions from Texas Governor Greg Abbott and dropped off near the official residence of Vice President Kamala Harris. Racine’s office has the authority to file criminal charges for misdemeanor or to bring civil cases for fraud.

Racine said that in interviews with his investigators, incoming immigrants “spoke convincingly about being misled, with talk of promised services.” He gave no details about the investigation, including whether it was being handled by his office’s criminal or civil division. The public prosecutor’s office declined to answer any further questions.

Various state and federal laws may apply to the transportation of immigrants across state lines. Racine’s office could investigate whether someone has committed fraud by falsely promising jobs or services, whether there have been civil rights violations, or whether officials have misappropriated taxpayer dollars.

Racine’s probe comes after weeks of escalating tensions between some Republican governors and the Biden administration over immigration policy. In April, Abbott began ferrying immigrants to Washington who had been treated and released by federal immigration authorities, later expanding the initiative to New York and Chicago. To date, more than 12,000 immigrants have been resettled from border towns.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has followed Abbott’s example and brought 2,170 immigrants to Washington in 60 buses, according to Ducey’s spokesman CJ Karamargin. Most of them, he said, were hoping to move to New York, New Jersey, or Florida.

Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking re-election, charged the issue and pushed it to the forefront of a national debate over Biden’s immigration policy. He sent two charter flights to Martha’s Vineyard with Venezuelan immigrants who had arrived in Texas. Local officials in Texas said they were not consulted.

The immigrants and their advocates said passengers on the charter flights had been told they would given jobs and support. A sheriff in Texas has opened a criminal investigation whether Florida officials broke the law by recruiting the migrants from a Texas animal shelter.

Racine’s involvement increases the pressure on the governors for their actions.

Elected as a Democrat, Racine criticized Republican governors for “using people as props. That’s what they did with the immigrants.”

Racine’s office can prosecute certain misdemeanors, and crimes are handled by the US Attorney’s Office. But his best-known work was bringing civil fraud claims against nonprofit organizations and corporations. In May it reached a $750,000 comparison in a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump’s founding committee alleging it misappropriated donor funds Overpayment for rents at the Trump International Hotel.

Governors have said they have done nothing wrong by transporting immigrants to “sanctuary cities” that may be better equipped to provide for them. They say they want the rest of the nation to share the burden of the Biden administration’s so-called open border policy.

Abbott, who is also running for re-election, said that he was driving immigrants from Texas to Harris’s DC residence to raise awareness about border security, saying on Twitter, “We’re sending migrants into their backyard to ask the Biden administration to do its job and close the border.” to back up.”

In a statement to ProPublica and the Tribune, Abbott’s press secretary Renae Eze denied any ruse was involved in the Texas migrant transportation program, which has now sent 8,200 people to Washington in over 195 buses, including 3,200 to New York City, 60 buses and 920 to New York City Chicago in over 15 buses.

“These Democratic elites in our nation’s capital know nothing about the bus operations in Texas. These migrants willingly chose to go to Washington, DC after signing a voluntary waiver upon boarding, available in multiple languages, that they had agreed on the destination. And they were processed and cleared by the federal government, which dumped them in small Texas border towns,” she wrote.

The DeSantis office did not respond, but the governor said he intends to ship more immigrants from Florida. Ducey’s spokesman said Arizona is working with a regional health center to ensure immigrants are treated well and get to their final desired destinations. Ducey has said he will continue to bus migrants into Washington until he leaves office in January.

Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, an advocacy group, said some immigrants sent from Texas to Harris’ Washington residence told his team they were misled about their ultimate destination. Immigrants believed they were going to Union Station, the city’s central transportation hub, where many hoped to catch up with family or catch trains and buses to other places. Instead, he said, they were dropped off at an undisclosed location around 6 a.m., where a church group quickly organized to pick them up.

“I think they’re being tricked and used,” Garcia said.

Since the spring, buses have been arriving almost daily at Union Station, where immigrants can now receive assistance from a new city office for immigrant services. So far, Texas taxpayers have spent about $14 million transporting migrants, according to state records. Buses to Washington have continued in recent days, with several additional arrivals at the Vice President’s residence.

In the meantime, Florida procurement documents recommend that the state Department of Transportation intends to carry out-of-state immigrants on charter air services by June 30 salesperson selected for the charter flights is operated by a state Republican donor.

The US Treasury Department Inspector General examines Florida’s use of money from COVID-19 funds to fund its migrant transportation program, Politico reported. The DeSantis office says it used the money properly.

Kirsten Berg contributed research.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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Laura Coffey

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