Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is doubling down on the abuse he inflicted several months ago on dozens of Venezuelan immigrants. He is asking the Florida legislature to give him another $12 million to “relocate” undocumented immigrants, which will enable him to do more of what he did to those Venezuelan immigrants to new groups of undocumented immigrants.
An agent for DeSantis approached the immigrants in Texas — yes, Texas, which is around 1,000 miles away from Florida — and apparently told them that there were jobs awaiting them in Washington, D.C., or Boston. That representation was false. In fact, the scheme was to induce the immigrants to sign consent forms and then transport them to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and then just dump them there.
The goal of the scheme was to embarrass the residents of Martha’s Vineyard, who have expressed sympathy for the plight of immigrants in general. DeSantis was convinced that once he dumped the immigrants into Martha’s Vineyard, the residents there would treat them in the same way that DeSantis was treating them — like garbage. In that way, he would expose the hypocrisy of people “on the left.”
Actually, however, the scheme blew up in DeSantis’s face, in several respects.
Rather than treat the immigrants like garbage, the people of Martha’s Vineyard actually bent over backwards to help them out. People responded immediately to bring them food, clothing, and other essentials. According to the Washington Post,
Four months later, nearly everyone in the group is still in Massachusetts. Many are in small cities near Boston, and others remain on Cape Cod. Five have returned to Martha’s Vineyard with the help of residents.
Last month, Self and Gazaille visited several of the migrants in Stoughton, a town south of Boston. They carried bags of warm clothing donated by their neighbors on Chappaquiddick: wool sweaters, puffy jackets, winter hats. A 27-year-old with dark, curly hair tried on a hunting jacket and a cream-colored fisherman’s sweater. “Thank you, this is very kind,” he told Self.
Local organizations working with the homeless had helped locate housing for the migrants. They contacted church groups, which found families willing to host some of the migrants for several months, while others are being housed in shelters.
Thus, rather than expose any hypocrisy on the part of the Martha’s Vineyard residents, DeSantis actually confirmed their sincerity and generosity when it comes to immigrants.
What DeSantis actually did was expose his own hypocrisy. Like other Republicans, he purportedly stands for “fiscal responsibility.” Yet, there was clearly no “fiscal responsibility” in DeSantis’s scheme. He paid $1.6 million in Florida taxpayer money to transport those immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard. He could have saved a lot of money using a bus but instead decided to use privately chartered jet planes to carry out his scheme.
Moreover, owing to the fraudulent representation that was apparently used to induce the immigrants to consent to the flight, DeSantis has been hit with multiple lawsuits. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the state of Florida has agreed to pay two law firms up to $1 million to defend against the lawsuits. The lawyers from one of the firms are charging the state $650 per hour.
Republicans say that undocumented immigrants should be forcibly deported back to their country of origin, even if they face the possibility of death owing to desperate economic conditions brought on, in major part, by U.S. sanctions. (See my recent article “Outrage on Refugees and Silence on Sanctions.”)
What about those Venezuelan immigrants who were the target of DeSantis’s scheme? Have they been deported back to Venezuela?
Well, actually no. That’s because they have been granted a special visa that is given to immigrants who might be important witnesses in a criminal case.
Criminal case? Yes, it turns out that DeSantis is under criminal investigation by the Sheriff in Bexar County, Texas. He’s investigating whether DeSantis should be charged with criminal fraud for the false representation that his agent apparently made to those Venezuelan immigrants regarding jobs in Washington, D.C., or Boston. Thus, since the immigrants might be called to testify in a criminal prosecution of DeSantis, they have qualified for that special visa that entitles them to remain here pending the outcome of the investigation.
Notwithstanding all this, DeSantis is asking the state of Florida for another $12 million in Florida taxpayer money. Given that Republicans control the Florida legislature, there is little doubt that they will give DeSantis what he wants, which will enable him to carry out his schemes against even more immigrants.