Ahead of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s visit to Cape Cod this weekend, Cape and Islands District Attorney Rob Galibois announced Friday he intends to investigate the dropping of dozens of migrants on Martha’s Vineyard, and urged state and federal law enforcement to pool their resources to prosecute the Florida politician and his administration.
Galibois said in a statement to the Globe that he believes it falls on his office to investigate the crisis DeSantis caused when migrants were “tricked and fooled into boarding planes that ultimately landed in Martha’s Vineyard.”
“Given that much of the information that I seek to review as part of my investigation falls outside of my jurisdiction, I stand behind California and believe in order for a full and proper investigation to occur, the Department of Justice must be involved,” he said. “I stand ready to cooperate with the Department of Justice.”
In July, a Texas sheriff and California officials asked the US Department of Justice to investigate the transport of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard and Sacramento in the past nine months as part of DeSantis’s migrant “relocation” program.
Officials from the US Department of Justice could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Last September, DeSantis, who has since launched a campaign for president, sent two planeloads of migrants from Texas to the Vineyard in what was widely considered a surprise political stunt — following a pattern of GOP governors who have sent migrants to Democrat-led cities in protest of the Biden administration’s immigration policies. Last month, a similar set of flights landed in Sacramento, with the DeSantis administration also ultimately taking credit.
A spokesperson for Governor Maura Healey said in a statement that she “supports a federal investigation into this stunt that used human beings as political pawns.”
Attorney General Andrea Campbell said her office will continue to work in partnership with federal, state, and local officials. A spokesperson confirmed that her office has already met with Galibois to discuss the migrant crisis.
“While Gov. DeSantis continues to exploit migrants for political purposes, we’ve worked hard to welcome them and protect their rights,” Campbell said in a statement Friday. “We support any efforts to hold accountable those who violate the rights of our residents and visitors.”
Immigration attorney Giselle Rodriguez said the attorney general’s office has the authority to step in once a district attorney identifies the responsible parties and is prepared to bring charges against them. If an investigation involves attorneys general from multiple states, she said, that could trigger federal officials from the Department of Justice to get involved.
Rodriguez is one of several immigration attorneys to point to kidnapping or human trafficking as potential charges law enforcement might consider.
“DeSantis’s conduct is despicable and it has certainly been unlawful. Exactly how many laws have been violated is unclear,” said Sophia Hall, an attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights, which worked to offer immediate aid to the migrants last year, and filed a federal lawsuit against the Florida governor in September.
Hall called on federal and state agencies to pursue both criminal and civil investigations against DeSantis for his actions.
“The more eyes the better. This is a problem for our country to have a political leader who is xenophobic and openly belittling our laws,” she said. “Other government actors should be watching to ensure that this is properly investigated and addressed, both criminally and civilly, to ensure [his message] is not a message we send to our country.”
Earlier this summer, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, the Texas sheriff investigating DeSantis’s scheme, recommended criminal charges related to the flights. The referral is currently pending with county prosecutors.
At the time Russ Eonas, a spokesman for the Cape & Islands district attorney’s office, declined to say if Galibois was weighing his own investigation or potential charges.
Galibois began his term in January as the first Democrat to lead the office since it was created nearly 50 years ago.
”He’s obviously aware of the potential charges in Texas, and he will cooperate with them in any way necessary, anything that is asked of him,” Eonas said at the time.
Rodriguez said the migrants unwittingly involved in DeSantis’s stunt could face immigration challenges, particularly those who have pending cases in other states.
But she also said that despite being thrust into the spotlight, these men, women, and children still have avenues open to obtain a visa and employment authorization in Massachusetts or elsewhere.