A coalition of Democratic legislators is demanding that the Joe Biden administration investigate Gov. Ron DeSantis for his administration’s migrant transport program.
DeSantis’ decision last month to send two planes with about 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard (with a Florida stopover on the itinerary) spurred letters urging action from Reps. Dotie Joseph and Anna V. Eskamani, undersigned by two state Senators, House Democratic leadership, and 23 other House Democrats.
“The DeSantis Administration and those it worked with to implement this inhuman and potentially illegal act must be held accountable, especially as Governor DeSantis says he plans to continue profiling and trafficking asylum seekers who present themselves at the southern border,” Eskamani asserted.
“Not only is all of this morally wrong, but there are serious legal concerns around fraud, kidnapping, human trafficking, deprivation of liberty, and violations of human and civil rights, including 18 U.S.C. § 241 and § 242,” Joseph added.
The letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland accused the DeSantis administration of civil rights violations, via “lying to newly arrived asylum seekers” and allegedly offering fraudulent inducements to board the plane to Massachusetts last month.
The letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged a “compliance review” to determine whether the use of $12 million in interest from pandemic relief funds was legal. Joseph urged Buttigieg to contact the plaintiffs currently suing DeSantis for the unwanted transport to Martha’s Vineyard as part of his investigation of the claim.
The DeSantis administration has downplayed the migrant relocation program since Hurricane Ian hit last week, as focus has turned to disaster response and recovery. But ahead of the storm, one campaign spox and administration alum was gloating that Democrats voted for the fund as part of the larger budget.
“The funding for transporting illegal aliens to sanctuary jurisdictions was a highlight of the budget DeSantis signed MONTHS ago. Dem legislators performing outrage today voted for it,” tweeted DeSantis rapid response director Christina Pushaw earlier this month. “Promises made, promises kept.”
Not all Democrats voted Yes, however.
“The only person ‘performing’ in this heartless political stunt is the Governor,” notes Joseph, who voted against the budget allocation.
DeSantis defended the migrant flight last month in Miami, again blaming President Biden for having “dumped people all over the fruited plain,” as part of a series of quotes deflecting responsibility.
Notably, DeSantis told friendly interviewer Sean Hannity that travelers and those in Martha’s Vineyard “wanted” the plane to land.
“They said they wanted this, they said they were a sanctuary jurisdiction,” DeSantis claimed.
The migrants had “all signed consent forms to go,” DeSantis said, showing that the flights were “clearly voluntary.”
A second flight appears to have been scuttled, but not before a memorable news cycle all its own. DeSantis refused to “confirm” a rumored Delaware flight landing with more redirected migrants. Ultimately, that didn’t happen, a move that a DeSantis-linked source said left the media “punked.”
Subsequent reporting from the Miami Herald revealed that these immigrants who were promised transport were stranded as a result.
Despite the reporting in the wake of the flight to Martha’s Vineyard, at least one poll suggests it’s a winner with voters. A recent Spectrum News/Siena College Poll shows that 49% of all respondents approved of the migrant relocation scheme, against 44% disapproval.