(Featured Image provided by Luis Santana/AP)
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is being investigated for his connections to an incident that happened last Wednesday, September 14, 2022, involving 50 migrants from Venezuela. These migrants were initially staying at a shelter in San Antonio, Texas, when they were approached by a woman they called “Perla” who persuaded them to board a flight to Boston where they could start new lives. However, the two planes that left the city around 8:15 am local time didn’t stop at Boston but rather at Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the southern coast of Massachusetts, at 3:15 pm local time. Officials in the area had no warning of the incoming flights and had to use emergency shelters and supplies typically reserved for natural disasters to accommodate the unexpected visitors. “There was no advance notice to anyone in Martha’s Vineyard or Massachusetts that these migrants were arriving, to my knowledge,” said Massachusetts state senator Julian Cyr.
As confirmed in a statement made by a spokesperson for DeSantis later that day, Florida transported the migrants under a new program funded earlier this year to transport illegal migrants to chosen “sanctuary destinations.” This incident is just one in a larger trend by many Republican governors like DeSantis such as Texas’ Greg Abbot and Arizona’s Doug Ducey in which thousands of migrants are being sent to predominantly Democratic states with Democratic mayors as a sort of political stunt against the Biden-Harris administration over the issue of illegal immigration. For example, last Thursday, a bus of about 100 migrants, most of them also Venezuelan, was dropped off right outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in Washington D.C.
According to pictures first published by Popular Information, the migrants who were transported to Martha’s Vineyard were given brochures detailing housing, job, and monetary assistance for refugees who took the trip. For many of the migrants, who were desperate to escape the authoritarian regime back in Venezuela, it seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. However, many of these refugee benefits can’t just be simply given to anyone who seeks asylum in the United States, as the term refugee has a strict legal definition that must be met. As stated by Miami-based immigration attorney Joseph Lackey, the process of being defined as a refugee and gaining the benefits that come with it is a long process that can sometimes take years to fully complete. When the migrants finally arrived at the airport on the island, there was no one there to greet them, and they had to walk for 4 miles to get help.
The incident has drawn much criticism from Democrats and immigration officials alike, accusing DeSantis of misleading migrants with false information to send them across the nation just for some political points. “They were told there was a surprise present for them, and that there would be jobs and housing awaiting for them when they arrived. This was obviously a sadistic lie,” said Boston immigration attorney Rachel Self. Charlie Crist, the Democratic nominee for Florida governor who will run in the November gubernatorial election, also condemned DeSantis’ actions, accusing him of human trafficking. “He owes the people of our state answers,” said Crist.
However, DeSantis hasn’t taken these accusations lying down and appeared on Fox News on Monday to address the accusations against him. In an interview with Fox New’s Sean Hannity, he said that the outrage was just a result of virtue signaling and that sanctuary designation like Martha’s Vineyard would want things like this to happen to them. “It’s really frustrating. Millions of people since Biden’s been president, illegally coming across the southern border. Did they freak out about that? No,” stated DeSantis. He also claimed that the migrants were given consent forms before going on the plane, so they knew what they were getting into and everything was voluntary.
As of now, an investigation has been launched by the sheriff of Bexar County (where San Antonio is located), Javier Salazar, on whether the migrants could be considered victims of a crime and if DeSantis should be charged for it. “If someone is here and they are illegally here and are undocumented, they have rights to not be victims. They have rights to not be lured to another state with fake promises. With that being said, these people were here legally. They were documented. They had the right to walk around the streets free and not be transported across the country for it to be a media event. That’s a tragedy. That is at worst some type of crime. We’re going to look at what extent of the law we can hold people accountable,” stated Salazar.