Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing more legal challenges after he participated in a cruel political stunt that involved luring migrants away from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard on false pretenses last week.
Florida state Sen. Jason Pizzo (D) on Thursday sued the Republican governor and other state officials, alleging their actions as part of the scheme broke state law. He aims to ban DeSantis from continuing to transfer migrants.
Pizzo said DeSantis used state funds to help pay for the transportation costs of flying two planes carrying about 50 migrants to Massachusetts.
While there is a provision in the state budget allocating $12 million to “a program to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law,” in this case, the migrants were not in Florida to begin with.
The only time the migrants were in the Sunshine State was when the two planes landed at a Florida airport before taking off again for Massachusetts.
Besides, the migrants are legally allowed to stay in the country while their requests for asylum or other relief are being processed.
“Senator Pizzo never misses an opportunity for his 15 minutes of fame and is challenging an action on an appropriation he voted for,” Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for DeSantis, told CNN Thursday.
Apart from DeSantis, the three other defendants named in the lawsuit are Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer; the state’s Department of Transportation; and Jared W. Purdue, the department’s head.
Three Venezuelan migrants who were flown to the island filed a lawsuit Tuesday against DeSantis and others involved in executing the scheme.
“These immigrants, who are pursuing the proper channels for lawful immigration status in the United States, experienced cruelty akin to what they fled in their home country,” the lawsuit states.
The three migrants described how they were tricked by hired scouts who offered free accommodation and the promise of legal work papers if they boarded planes, which they were told would take them to Washington, D.C., and Boston. Instead, the planes transported them to the remote island of Martha’s Vineyard without giving prior notice to local officials, and where no arrangements had been made to house them.
But locals stepped up to the challenge.
“Our island jumped into action putting together 50 beds, giving everyone a good meal, providing a play area for the children, making sure people have the healthcare and support they need,” Massachusetts state Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D) wrote on Twitter. “We are a community that comes together to support immigrants.”
Fernandes has also called on the Justice Department to launch a probe into DeSantis’ actions.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas is investigating the operation.
DeSantis has been floated as a likely 2024 presidential candidate for the Republican Party.