On the face of it, Governor Ron DeSantis’ scheme is a moral and political outrage. The Florida Republican and his team are accused of using false promises to lure desperate migrants onto planes in Texas, then dumping them on a small New England island ill-equipped for their unexpected arrival. It all appears to have been done as part of an exploitative ploy, designed to bolster the political prospects of a far-right governor.
By all appearances, DeSantis simply doesn’t care about matters of conscience or propriety. It is certainly his choice. But what the Floridian might want to take more seriously are the questions of whether his scheme was legal. NBC News reported:
A Texas sheriff said Monday his office has opened a criminal investigation into Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ unprecedented decision to send nearly 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, last week. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said the investigation is in its early stages and he declined to name any possible suspects. But at a press conference, he said, “Everyone on this call already knows who those names are.”
By all appearances, the investigation is in its early stages, but the Bexar County Sheriff added that he believes the migrants in question may have been “baited under false pretences” by DeSantis representatives.
A growing body of evidence suggests that these concerns are well founded. Many of these migrants told the same story with the same details about a woman they identified as “Perla” who helped lure them onto planes with outright lies about their destination and the benefits that awaited them when they arrived. .
Additionally, a separate NBC News report added yesterday that the migrants were given a pamphlet on housing, cash assistance and jobs for refugees, but the pamphlet was extremely misleading and, according to Lawyers for Civil Rights, potentially criminal. (The pamphlet was first reported by the Popular Information website.)
To complicate matters for DeSantis, there are related legal questions swirling around in his home country, which are just as difficult to answer. While the governor has insisted in recent days that Florida lawmakers gave him $12 million to run such transports, Politico reported that it was not at all clear whether he had “run the program as planned by the Republican-controlled legislature.”
Statutorily, it would appear that DeSantis has put himself in a difficult situation: he has been given resources to “facilitate the transportation of unauthorized aliens from this state in accordance with federal law.”
In this case, however, the asylum seekers were almost certainly not “unauthorized aliens” under immigration laws, and “this state” was referring to Florida, not Texas.
The Republican governor, seven weeks before Election Day in the Sunshine State, did not offer a detailed defense of his scheme, and what DeSantis presented was unconvincing.