Urgent Federal Investigation Into Ron DeSantis For Migrant Trafficking Requested

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All the Representatives serving Massachusetts in Congress alongside one of the states’s Senators have signed on to a new letter requesting an investigation at the U.S. Department of Transportation into transports recently arranged by the administration of Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis taking dozens of migrants from Texas to Massachusetts.

The migrants on the flights were deceived into joining the trip, according to available details. They were provided false promises of assistance with housing and work, and the true destination of the journey — Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, a notably Democratic-leaning enclave in the already Democratic-leaning state — was initially obscured, with Boston and Washington, D.C., reportedly among where migrants were told they’d be headed. In Martha’s Vineyard, local officials weren’t provided any advance notice of the migrants’ arrival, and the DeSantis team actually hadn’t set up housing or employment opportunities. Available details indicate they essentially dropped them off — and that was basically it. DeSantis is now facing a lawsuit from members of the group on his administration’s flights.

The letter from members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation cites a Trump-era rule blocking misrepresentation in charter flights. “This conduct is not only cruel but also may have violated DOT’s Charter-Broker Rule,” they wrote Wednesday. “According to the rule, which the Trump administration issued in 2018, persons or entities that hold out or arrange charter air transportation — known as charter brokers — are prohibited from misrepresenting “the time of departure or arrival, points served, route to be flown, stops to be made, or total trip-time from point of departure to destination.”” Citing a list of various possibilities for those subject to the Charter-Broker Rule in this situation, the letter adds: “To the extent that any of those individuals or entities misled migrants about flight details, they may have violated the Charter-Broker Rule and be liable for a civil penalty.” The list to which the letter points includes Florida state officials and a woman ID’ed as “Perla” who personally interacted with multiple migrants in assembling the flights.

The letter, which is addressed to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, closes with a scathing rebuke. “Charter brokers and air carriers should not assist states like Florida in relocating migrants with false promises about their ultimate destination,” the Congresspeople said. “The Department should use all tools within its authority — including enforcement of its consumer protection rules — to ensure that migrants are not transported under false pretenses as part of a competition among wannabe Trump acolytes to claim the mantle of cruelest governor in the United States.” The DeSantis team has defended the voluntary nature of the trip and the supposedly sufficient level of information those who joined the journey were provided, but a Spanish translation on a signed consent form the governor’s own staff released doesn’t even mention Massachusetts.

The point of the trip was drawing attention to immigration-related issues, or trying to annoy Democrats at vulnerable migrants’ expense, or something — but members of the local community quickly assembled to assist the suddenly arrived group with obtaining what they needed. It’s notable that just this May the DeSantis administration made a show of establishing something called “Victims of Communism Day,” but when actual victims of Communism presented themselves (the dozens of migrants included folks from Venezuela), they didn’t seem particularly welcome in Florida. Some are also pushing for Justice Department action.