Legal First Responders for Migrants in Martha’s Vineyard

Immigrant Rights, Racial Justice

Lawyers for Civil Rights is providing free legal support to the immigrants who were recklessly expelled from Texas and Florida. In response to this unprecedented event, LCR rapidly mobilized to deploy attorneys and staff to Martha’s Vineyard. On the ground since early Thursday morning, LCR has helped to coordinate free legal services, which have been amplified through an incredible and robust network of pro bono attorneys and volunteers. LCR escorted the migrants to Cape Cod, where we continue to provide free legal support and other assistance with our community partners and allies. This work continues throughout the weekend.

We will update this page regularly to share developments as they unfold.

Monday, September 19 at 10 AM:

We are sharing the so-called “brochure” the migrants received at some point during their expulsion and relocation from Texas and Florida. The so-called “brochure” is available here: Page 1 and Page 2.

Check out LCR’s formal requests for criminal investigations surrounding the Vineyard 50: Federal and Commonwealth of MA.

Sunday, September 18 at 5 PM:

Lawyers for Civil Rights continues to provide ongoing legal support to the migrants in Cape Cod. Our staff is working in alternating shifts to ensure a continuous presence with the migrants at the base. In this herculean effort, we are proud to join an army of pro bono attorneys and volunteers including: Emily Leung of the Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts (South Coastal Counties Legal Services); Susan Church of Demissie & Church; Rachel Self of Rachel M. Self, P.C., and Julio Henriquez of Law Offices of Julio Henriquez. Along with other friends, allies, and community partners, we have all been tirelessly working around the clock to make sure the migrants have everything they need.

Saturday, September 17 at 5 PM:

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) called upon U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to formally open criminal investigations into the political stunt that brought two planeloads of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this week.  LCR now represents more than 30 of the individuals who were victimized by these unlawful actions.

In the letters sent, LCR detailed how its clients were induced to board airplanes and cross state lines under false pretenses. Individuals, working in concert with State officials, including the Florida Governor, made numerous false promises to LCR’s clients — including of work opportunities, schooling for their children, and immigration assistance — in order to induce them to travel.  Once the planes landed, those who had induced individuals to travel under these false pretenses disappeared, leaving the immigrants to learn that the offers of assistance had all been a ruse to exploit them for political purposes.

Particularly given the deliberate, intentional, and concerted nature of the interference by State actors into federal immigration enforcement, LCR emphasizes that a strong and coordinated federal response is required. 

The formal request for an investigation comes on the heels of LCR’s staff, volunteers, and pro bono attorneys experiencing threats and harassment. LCR’s website — http://lawyersforcivilrights.org — was also sabotaged as the organization’s attorneys escorted the Vineyard 50 to the base in Cape Cod. 

U.S. Attorney Rollins has stated that she is working with federal authorities in other States that have experienced similar conduct.  

LCR urges immediate law enforcement action to protect the rights of the Vineyard 50, preserve evidence, and hold perpetrators accountable.  

LCR’s letter to the federal government is available here.

LCR’s letter to the MA Attorney General is available here.

Friday, September 16 at 6 PM

We have been responding to the unfolding immigration situation since early yesterday on the ground in the Edgartown Church.

As we escorted immigrants from Martha’s Vineyard to the camp in Cape Cod, we experienced a cyberattack. Our website may have been disabled, but not our advocacy.

Building on herculean pro bono team efforts with families and children in the Vineyard, we escorted 50 folks to a camp in Cape Cod. The families and kids are safe. They are settling in and they are in good spirits. In the camp in Cape Cod, Lawyers for Civil Rights and our allies assigned immigrants to pro bono attorneys. This work will continue throughout the weekend with a team of volunteer attorneys and community supporters. We are connecting the immigrant families to services and resources.

Friday, September 16 at 10 AM

Lawyers for Civil Rights continues our work on the ground for vulnerable immigrant families who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this week as part of a craven and inhumane political stunt.  In the last 24 hours, we have interviewed dozens of impacted individuals, some who arrived with children as young as 2 years old, visibly shaken.

The stories our clients tell are heartbreaking – and infuriating.  We learned of their long and perilous journeys from their home countries, of their arrival in the United States and their processing by federal immigration authorities.  Then – in a still unbelievable turn of events engineered by the Florida governor – our clients tell how they were induced to board planes with false representations of work assistance and immigration relief in Boston.  Mid-flight, they were informed they were not going to Boston after all, but to Martha’s Vineyard.  They were dropped on the island without notice to anyone in the community.

 This cowardly political stunt has placed our clients in peril.  Upon arrival, numerous individuals had to be rushed to the hospital, in need of medical care. Some now have immigration hearings as early as Monday thousands of miles away.

 Our legal team at Lawyers for Civil Rights, supported by an extensive corps of pro bono attorneys and other allies, have screened 50 immigrants for protection and relief, are assisting them with navigating the immigration process, and are documenting their painful experiences.  We are urging law enforcement authorities to investigate criminal charges against the Florida governor and his accomplices, and are continuing to explore all other available legal remedies.  Throughout, the Edgartown Church and the Martha’s Vineyard community have mobilized to provide amazing community support. LCR’s legal team will escort the immigrant families off of Martha’s Vineyard. On a parallel track, LCR is exploring legal options — civil and criminal — to hold the responsible parties accountable.

Here in Massachusetts, we will not stand idly by and allow human beings to be treated as political props.  We are affording our clients the dignity and respect they deserve, and will continue to do so until justice prevails.

Thursday, September 15 at 10 AM

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) is appalled by the recent actions apparently spearheaded by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to fly dozens of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts.  It is unconscionable to treat human beings – especially members of such a vulnerable population – like pawns to make a political point.

LCR attorneys and staff are currently on the ground in Martha’s Vineyard, meeting with the affected immigrants.  We are helping to connect them with local services to ensure their immediate needs are met.  At the same time, we are also investigating the inhumane manner in which they were shipped across the country, to determine the responsible parties, whether state or federal criminal laws against human trafficking and kidnapping were violated, and what other legal remedies are available.

To undertake this effort, in rapid-response fashion, LCR is convening pro bono attorneys, immigration specialists, law enforcement, and social service providers.  The situation on Martha’s Vineyard is unfolding rapidly.  We will continue to post additional information as it becomes available.