Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is getting investigated by members of Congress over recent flights for which his administration was responsible that took migrants from Texas to Massachusetts with no advance warning to local officials, meaning resources weren’t ready — although locals stepped in and helped.
The stunt, drawing attention to immigration issues at the expense of disadvantaged people, including homeless migrants who were cajoled into joining the voluntary trip, quickly drew widespread condemnation. Among other issues, available information suggests these migrants — including asylum seekers who are legally allowed to remain in the country — were dramatically deceived into participating in the journey. A legal organization representing part of the group shared a brochure that was apparently distributed, which outlines benefits available to certain migrants — without specifying that those on the flights couldn’t legally access that assistance. Prospects of help with food, shelter, and employment were raised — and nothing from the list was provided by DeSantis once in Massachusetts. Even the destination of the trip was initially obscured, according to early details.
“Chairman Thompson says the Homeland Security Committee is drafting a letter seeking information [from] DHS about the migrant flights orchestrated by Gov. DeSantis,” per journalist Kyle Cheney, who’s with POLITICO. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is the chairperson of the homeland security panel in the House, and according to Cheney, Thompson revealed another committee was also exploring available options for action. “He also says another committee (he didn’t identify) is looking into the financing of that effort,” the journalist added. DeSantis and other state officials in Florida were recently named as defendants in a lawsuit from several of the migrants who ultimately participated in the trip to Massachusetts, with the case alleging that defendants (meaning DeSantis and the others) engaged in fraud and violated federal legal provisions including portions of the Fourth and 14th Amendments.
The case, besides seeking restrictions on DeSantis’s ability to engage in similar stunts in the future, also challenges the legal foundation for the trip’s financing, which was (apparently) originally COVID-19 relief money, per the lawsuit’s details.
“Defendants manipulated them, stripped them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under law, and impermissibly interfered with the Federal Government’s exclusive control over immigration in furtherance of an unlawful goal and a personal political agenda,” as Oren Sellstrom put it. He serves as the litigation director at Lawyers for Civil Rights, a legal organization connected to the lawsuit and representing migrants who were on the DeSantis administration’s deception-fueled trip to Massachusetts. Officials even including California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom have also called for an investigation by the Justice Department into the DeSantis administration’s actions, and the local U.S. Attorney in the Martha’s Vineyard area, to which the migrants were flown in Massachusetts, indicated she was looking at options and waiting for guidance from inside the department.