Team DeSantis Shrugs off New Federal Lawsuit by Immigrant Groups Over Martha’s Vineyard Flights
Team DeSantis has responded to a new federal lawsuit by immigrant rights group challenging the constitutionality of the state organizing two flights of migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard.
In September, Florida officials arranged flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, that carried 49 migrants to the island where former President Barack Obama owns a home. Locals were not told the migrants were coming, but DeSantis has repeatedly said that the flights were voluntary. DeSantis claimed responsibility for the flights to get the federal government’s attention on what he has called the Biden administration’s failed border policies.
At a press conference, DeSantis explained, “Now, at least we know nobody can deny that there’s a crisis. Everybody now knows, and it was only because the elite….had to shoulder that.”
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Despite an initial welcome, the migrants were quickly relocated by the military to a base in Cape Cod.
The 28-page lawsuit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against DeSantis and state Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue. The suit was filed by three groups; Florida Immigrant Coalition, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and Hope Community Center.
The lawsuit alleges that the relocation was “fraudulent” and vaguely claimed that the illegal immigrants had already been “processed.”
“Florida’s attempts to create its own immigration system came to a head on September 14, 2022, when individuals acting at the direction of Defendants sowed chaos and confusion by fraudulently inducing approximately 50 Venezuelan and Peruvian migrants, all of whom had been processed into the U.S. by immigration authorities, into taking a flight from Texas to Massachusetts, falsely promising them aid, jobs, and more. There was no aid.”
DeSantis pointed out that if “…if fifty was a burden one of the richest places in our country, what about these other communities who have been overrun with hundreds or thousands?”
Taryn Fenske, communications director for DeSantis, made a statement provided to Politico on Friday where he defended the program’s legality, as it was “… lawfully executed under an appropriation of the Florida state legislature (that, incidentally, had bipartisan support.).”
Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature approved a $12 million budget to relocate people in the U.S. illegally from Florida to another location. Ironically, the money came from interest earned from federal funds given to Florida under the Biden American Rescue Plan.
The lawsuit claims that this source of funds makes Florida’s definition of an “unauthorized alien” incoherent. The suit, however, quickly pivots to a scattershot of broader issues and away from the specifics of the Martha’s Vineyard case. It claims that legal immigrants are likely to be harassed under this precedent. The suit goes so far as to claim that the policy “discriminates against people of color.”
Finally, the lawsuit argues that Florida has no legitimate interest in this relocation and that prejudice is the only motive. The suit claims this on the grounds that immigrants can provide some benefits to the communities they enter. Thus, presumably under the 14th Amendment, the case argues that the relocation was unconstitutional. This rationale raises questions as to if Martha’s Vineyard could be sued on the same grounds for their relocation of the migrants.
“Immigrants in the United States provide tangible benefits to the communities where they choose to relocate, economic and otherwise. Spending $615,000 to transport asylum seekers from Texas to Massachusetts does not further a legitimate interest, it merely perpetuates xenophobia and hate by targeting Latin American and Caribbean migrants. Where the only justifications for a discriminatory law are based in prejudice, the law is unconstitutional even under rational basis review.”
Given the grounds of this suit, it seems that for DeSantis to win, he will only need to demonstrate real drawbacks for Floridians brought on by Biden’s open border policy and the technical legality of his program; the former being part of DeSantis’ campaign platform, and the latter being something Fenske has repeatedly insisted on.
“This program does not violate federal law. We will continue to defend the state’s actions against these politically motivated, unsound lawsuits.”
DeSantis also ripped the suit as hypocritical, citing the Biden administration’s repeated relocation of immigrants and laying out the drawbacks of open border policies.
“When Biden is flying these people all over the fruited plain in the middle of the night, I didn’t hear a peep out of these people [the groups suing]. …. I don’t hear outrage about criminal aliens who are getting through, who have victimized people, not only in Florida but all throughout the country. I didn’t hear any outrage about that. The only thing I hear them getting upset about is you have fifty who wind up in Martha’s Vineyard.”
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