MSNBC figures, Democrats call for DeSantis, Abbott to be prosecuted over ‘human trafficking’ claims

Democratic politicians and media figures on MSNBC have claimed that Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott’s decision to send migrants to major cities constitutes “human trafficking,” with some even calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute the Republican governors. 

During a Sunday night panel on MSNBC’s “Mehdi Hasan Show,” The Nation reporter Elie Mystal claimed that DeSantis and Abbott had violated the federal statutes regarding kidnapping, and urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate. 

“We need Merrick Garland once again to understand that and bring the full weight and power of the federal government down on these people,” he said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D., and Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, D., both called on the DOJ to look into the matter. 

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“This is a humane — an inhumane, rather — injustice that’s being done to human beings,” Crist told CNN. “Is this the way to treat our fellow men and women? Of course not.”

“And, you know, laws may have been broken in the process of this,” Crist added, saying the governors’ actions were “probably illegal,” and that he will file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to probe further.

Crist also hopped on a call with the legal organization Lawyers for Civil Rights, which alleged DeSantis and several others “induced” migrants to board the plane believing that they were being flown to Boston to find employment. The group urged the federal government and the state of Massachusetts to open criminal probes into DeSantis. 

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Newsom asked whether actions by Abbott and DeSantis to send illegal immigrants from their respective states to destinations such as New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Martha’s Vineyard were illegal.

“Several of the individuals who were transported to Martha’s Vineyard have alleged that a recruiter induced them to accept the offer of travel based on false representations that they would be transported to Boston and would receive expedited access to work authorization,” Newsom wrote. “I urge US DOJ to investigate whether the alleged fraudulent inducement would support charges of kidnapping under relevant state laws.”

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Numerous figures on MSNBC also claimed that DeSantis and Abbott were engaged in “human trafficking.”

On Friday, after boasting about the compassion of Martha’s Vineyard residents towards the Venezuelan migrants, MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough called DeSantis’ move “political human trafficking” during a conversation with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Clinton quickly agreed, saying “some politicians” were exacerbating the issue of immigration to the level of “literally human trafficking.”

A day earlier, MSNBC host Joy Reid asked Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle about the incident in Martha’s Vineyard and about past instances of sending migrants from red states to blue states. 

“Is there any conversation that’s being had through your reporting about whether or not this is a crime?” Reid asked. “Because this has been called trafficking. There is a lot of chatter now that what these governors, including Ron DeSantis, have done is to have trafficked these families.” 

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Ovalle replied it was “really hard to tell” if laws were broken, but noted that DeSantis and those helping him are “pretty smart” and likely ran through many scenarios and legal discussions before sending migrants out of the state.

A similar discussion also occurred on Sunday’s MSNBC show “Ayman,” where host Ayman Mohyeldin sat down with former New York Democratic Rep. Max Rose. 

“You have probably seen as I’m sure the rest of the country has and watched in horror the images of migrants being trafficked, effectively, across state lines just for political theater by Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott. We’re seeing it here in New York as well. What is your reaction to it?” Mohyeldin asked. 

Rose claimed that the “feckless” and “ineffective” DeSantis was motivated to use millions in Florida public funds because he was jealous that Abbott was getting more national attention than he was. 

“I think sensible Americans, and that is the vast, vast, vast majority of human beings, understand that human trafficking, kidnapping people, is absolutely wrong, and that we also on the same hand can come together and execute comprehensive, sensible immigration reform,” Rose added. 

But perhaps the most surprising comments came from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who likened DeSantis and Abbott to human smugglers during Friday’s press briefing. 

“These are the kind of tactics we see from smugglers in places like Mexico and Guatemala,” Jean-Pierre said. “And for what? A photo op?”

Jean-Pierre previously called their actions an “illegal stunt.”

Key members of the Biden administration met on Friday to discuss immigration concerns across the country, including whether to pursue legal action against the Republican governors. Furthermore, officials also discussed increased border support and additional funding for cities likely to take in migrants. 

Fox News’ Max Thornberry and Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report. 

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