By Marilyn W. Thompson, ProPublica, and Perla Trevizo, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica
“D.C. attorney general opens investigation into Republican governors’ relocating migrants to the capital” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine has opened an investigation into whether southern border state governors misled immigrants as part of what he called a “political stunt” to transport them to Washington.
Racine told ProPublica and The Texas Tribune his office is examining whether immigrants were deceived by trip organizers before boarding buses for Washington, including several hundred who were bused from Texas under instructions from Gov. Greg Abbott and dropped near the official residence of Vice President Kamala Harris. Racine’s office has the authority to bring misdemeanor criminal charges or to file civil fraud cases.
Racine said that in interviews with his investigators, arriving immigrants “have talked persuasively about being misled, with talk about promised services.” He offered no specifics about the inquiry, including whether it is being handled by his office’s criminal or civil divisions. The attorney general’s office declined to answer further questions.
Various state and federal laws could apply to transporting immigrants across state lines. Racine’s office could look into whether anyone committed fraud by falsely promising jobs or services, whether there were civil rights violations or whether officials misused taxpayers’ money.
Racine’s investigation comes after weeks of escalating tensions between some Republican governors and the Biden administration over immigration policy. In April, Abbott began busing to Washington immigrants who had been processed and released by federal immigration officials, and he later expanded the initiative to New York and Chicago. To date, more than 12,000 immigrants have been relocated from border towns.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has followed Abbott’s lead and bused 2,170 immigrants to Washington on 60 buses, according to Ducey’s spokesperson, C.J. Karamargin. Most of them, he said, had said they hoped to relocate to New York, New Jersey or Florida.
Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking reelection, turbocharged the issue and moved it to the forefront of a national debate on Biden’s immigration policies. He sent two charter flights to Martha’s Vineyard carrying Venezuelan immigrants who had arrived in Texas. Local officials in Texas have said they were not consulted.
The immigrants and their advocates said that passengers on the charter flights had been told they would be given jobs and support. A sheriff in Texas has opened a criminal investigation into whether Florida officials violated the law by recruiting the migrants from a Texas shelter.
Racine’s involvement ratchets up the pressure on the governors over their actions.
Elected as a Democrat, Racine criticized the Republican governors for using “people as props. That’s what they’ve done with the immigrants.”
Racine’s office can prosecute certain misdemeanors, and felonies are handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. But its highest profile work has been bringing civil fraud lawsuits against nonprofits and businesses. In May, it reached a $750,000 settlement in a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, alleging that it had abused donors’ funds by overpaying for rentals at the Trump International Hotel.
The governors have said they have done nothing wrong in transporting immigrants to “sanctuary cities” that may be better equipped to care for them. They say they want the rest of the nation to share the burden of what they call the Biden administration’s open border policies.
Abbott, who is also campaigning for reelection, said that he had had immigrants bused from Texas to Harris’ residence in D.C. to call attention to border security, saying on Twitter, “We’re sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden Administration to do its job and secure the border.”
In a statement to ProPublica and the Tribune, Abbott’s press secretary, Renae Eze, denied that any trickery has been involved in Texas’ migrant transportation program, which has now sent 8,200 people to Washington on over 195 buses, 3,200 to New York City on over 60 buses and 920 to Chicago on over 15 buses.
“These Democrat elites in our nation’s capital know nothing about Texas’ busing operations. These migrants willingly chose to go to Washington, D.C., having signed a voluntary consent waiver available in multiple languages upon boarding that they agreed on the destination. And they were processed and released by the federal government, who dumped them in small Texas border towns,” she wrote.
DeSantis’ office did not respond, but the governor has said he intends to transport more immigrants out of Florida. Ducey’s spokesperson said Arizona is working with a regional health center to ensure that immigrants are well-treated and get to their final desired destinations. Ducey has said he will continue busing migrants to Washington until he leaves office in January.
Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, an advocacy group, said that some immigrants who were sent from Texas to Harris’ residence in Washington have told his team they were misled about their final destination. The immigrants believed they were bound for Union Station, the city’s central transportation hub, where many hoped to connect with family or trains and buses to other locations. Instead, he said, they were dropped off at about 6 a.m. in an unfamiliar spot, where a church group quickly organized to pick them up.
“I think they are being tricked and being used,” Garcia said.
Since the spring, buses have arrived almost daily at Union Station, where immigrants can now seek support from a new city Office of Migrant Services. So far, Texas taxpayers have spent about $14 million on migrant transportation, according to state records. Buses into Washington have continued in recent days, with several additional arrivals at the vice president’s residence.
Meanwhile, Florida procurement records suggest that the state transportation agency intends to continue using charter air services to transport immigrants out of the state until June 30. The vendor chosen for the charter flights is run by a state Republican donor.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s inspector general is examining Florida’s use of money from COVID-19 funds to finance its migrant transportation program, Politico reported. DeSantis’s office says it used the money properly.
Kirsten Berg contributed research.
Disclosure: Politico has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/10/14/abbott-migrants-washington-investigation/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
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‘We’re Not There Yet’: House Republican Hasn’t Seen Any Evidence to ‘Get Anywhere Near Impeachment’
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) hasn’t seen anything worthy of impeachment dredged up by the House Republican investigations of President Joe Biden and his family.
The New York Republican, who recently ripped his GOP colleagues as a “clown show” over their failure to produce a government spending agreement, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he’s dubious of the impeachment inquiry launched by House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and suggested the process was being undertaken as revenge for Donald Trump’s two impeachments.
“Look, these investigations obviously started earlier this year in Oversight and Judiciary [and] they are continuing,” Lawler said. “As I have said repeatedly, we are not there yet with impeachment. There is a very high bar. It should not be political, it should not be tit-for-tat, and the facts and the evidence will determine what, if any steps are taken after this.”
At the end of the day, you know, a lot of this is semantics – it’s a continuation of the investigation,” the congressman added. “The ultimate question is whether or not the facts or evidence would bear out that Joe Biden somehow financially benefited from his son’s deals with Russian oligarchs, Ukrainian oligarchs, Iranian business folks and the Chinese. If that’s the case, the facts and evidence will show that, and if not, I don’t see how you get anywhere near impeachment.”
White House Mocks GOP With ‘Worst Person You Know’ Meme After Matt Gaetz Blames McCarthy for Shutdown
In a rare move the Biden White House on Wednesday mocked House Republicans with a popular internet meme to highlight remarks made by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz that show how the Florida Republican is blaming the impending, likely shutdown of the federal government on Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Congressman Gaetz specifically says “We cannot blame Joe Biden” and “We cannot blame House Democrats” for it.
Gaetz, who did not vote to hand McCarthy the gavel back in January, for weeks has increasingly been targeting the House Speaker. Last week he threatened he would get McCarthy removed as Speaker, going as far as to say he was “out of compliance.” On Tuesday a reporter found a resolution with links to Gaetz declaring the Office of the Speaker “vacant” on a baby changing table in a House restroom.
Fox News’ Liz Elkind reported on Gaetz’s comments via social media, “MATT GAETZ pins shutdown on McCarthy: ‘We will have a government shutdown and it is absolutely Speaker McCarthy’s fault. We cannot blame Joe Biden for not having moved our individual spending bills. We cannot blame House Democrats. We can’t even blame Chuck Schumer in the Senate.”
The White House reposted them, and the “worst person” meme, known as the “Heartbreaking: The Worst Person You Know Just Made A Great Point.” The meme was published in 2018 by Clickhole. a satirical website.
The federal government will shut down in 10 days if Speaker McCarthy cannot pass legislation to keep the government funded after September 30. That legislation will need to be acceptable to the Senate, and President Joe Biden. House Republicans, intent on stripping funding for Ukraine, defunding Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigations, along with the Dept. of Justice and FBI, are digging in their heels amid “chaos” and “infighting.” Some have called it a GOP “civil war.”
See the White House’s post below or at this link.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 20, 2023
‘Brazen and Misguided’: Schumer Decimates Tuberville’s ‘Act of Desperation’ – and Threatens to Hold Senators in DC
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took strong action on Wednesday, slamming U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville, vowing to get several officers in the U.S. Armed Forces confirmed to top posts, and threatening that if the Georgia Republican lawmaker who has blockaded well over 300 military promotions does not release his holds he will hold Senators in D.C. over the weekend.
“In an act of desperation, Sen. Tuberville is trying to use a procedural step to overcome his own holds,” Majority Leader Schumer wrote on social media Wednesday afternoon, before delivering a floor speech. “You read it right. His own holds.”
“He is trying to make himself the gatekeeper of which officers are promoted or languish,” Schumer added. “We can’t allow this to continue. We’re taking action.”
On the floor of the Senate he added: “We cannot allow Senator Tuberville to decide which of our dedicated and brave service members get promoted and which get to languish. Which military families are able to settle in their new posts, and which must remain in limbo. We cannot we should not allow that to be the case.”
“So I have just filed cloture on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Army Chief of Staff. These men should have already been confirmed. They should already be serving in their new positions,” Schumer said. “The Senate should not have to go through procedural hoops just to please one brazen and misguided senator.”
“But this is where we are. In the end, the Senate will overwhelmingly vote to overcome Senator Tuberville’s blockade of these three nominees by voting for cloture then the Senate will overwhelmingly vote to confirm them,” he vowed. “And these three honorable men will finally be able to assume their positions and the abortion policy that Senator Tuberville abhors will remain in place. Senator Tuberville will have accomplished nothing.”
It is rare for a Senate Leader to target one member of the body, and even more rare to do so by name, but Senator Tuberville’s blockade, which he began in February, has harmed military readiness, according to multiple top Pentagon officials and former officials.
Tuberville has said he has blocked at least 319 military promotions, which require Senate confirmation, in response to the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing service members who need to travel out of state to obtain abortion health care services. Many GOP-majority states have imposed abortion bans, forcing out-of travel.
But Schumer’s reference to “gatekeeper,” and later, in his floor speech saying, “which of our dedicated and brave service members get promoted,” may also refer to Tuberville’s unprecedented personal attacks on individual officers awaiting promotion.
Last month the Georgia freshman Republican Senator targeted over 20 individual U.S. Military officers, promoting an attack on their remarks supporting diversity and equity programs, or even, in one case, blasting one officer for their “celebration” of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Tuberville, who denied holding up hundreds of promotions is having a damaging effect on the military and morale, also has said he is blocking these promotions because the Biden administration is “woke.”
Recently, Tuberville told Bloomberg News each military officer’s promotion takes two hours of voting by the Senate, which could take them up individually despite his block. Tuberville falsely said voting on all the promotions would take “no time at all” to complete.
Watch Majority Leader Schumer below or at this link.
Majority Leader Schumer (D) says the Senate will vote on stalled military promotions individually:
“The Senate will overwhelmingly vote to confirm them … and the abortion policy that Sen. Tuberville abhors will remain in place. Sen. Tuberville will have accomplished nothing.” pic.twitter.com/zBxzcJrGkZ
— The Recount (@therecount) September 20, 2023
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