The lawsuit was filed against DeSantis, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, the state of Florida and the state Department of Transportation, according to the release and the lawsuit itself. The lawsuit alleges, in part, that the defendants defrauded vulnerable immigrants to charter two flights carrying migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard to further a political motive.
“No human being should be used as a political pawn in a deeply polarized nation’s immigration debate,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights.
Oscar Chacòn, executive director of Alianza Americas, called DeSantis’ flights to Martha’s Vineyard “morally reprehensible.” Alianza Americas is a network of immigrant-led organizations supporting immigrants in the US.
“Therefore, we have taken steps to legally challenge not only the morally reprehensible act, but also what we believe is illegal,” Chacòn said in a statement. “We want to do everything we can to prevent further abuses against newly arrived immigrants, especially asylum seekers who deserve support, protection and recognition for their incredible contributions to the United States, as well as to their families in their home countries.”
CNN has reached out to DeSantis’ office for comment.
Texas sheriff to open investigation into Martha’s Vineyard incident
In Bexar County, Texas, Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters Monday afternoon that his agency will open an investigation into the transportation of 48 Venezuelan migrants from the state to Martha’s Vineyard.
Salazar, a Democrat, said Monday that it was his understanding that a Venezuelan migrant was paid last Wednesday to recruit 50 migrants at a resource center in San Antonio, his Bexar County seat. Therefore, Salazar said that he believes that the laws were broken not only in the region, but also in the federal side.
The migrants were driven to Florida and then to Martha’s Vineyard with “false intentions,” he said.
The sheriff said he was taken to Martha’s Vineyard “for a photo op and stopped.” He believes the migrants were “exploited and tricked” into making the journey for political posturing. The sheriff is speaking with a lawyer representing some of the migrants to get a first-hand account of what happened, Salazar told reporters.
He said the allegations he has heard so far are “disgusting and a violation of human rights”. Salazar believes that there should be accounts of what happened.
DeSantis, who claimed credit for organizing the migrant flight, told Fox News Monday night that the migrants were not misled.
“They all signed permission forms to go and then the vendor who’s doing this for Florida gave them a packet with a map of Martha’s Vineyard, it has the number for the different services that are on Martha’s Vineyard,” DeSantis said.
“Why didn’t they want to go, seeing where they were? They were in a very, very bad state and they needed to be cleaned, everything, treated well,” he said.
The Florida Department of Transportation paid $1.565 million to Vertol Systems, a Destin-based airline, as part of the state’s migrant relocation program, according to state budget records.
A payment of 615,000 euros was made on September 8 and a payment of 950,000 euros was requested by the state on September 16, budget records show.
Budget records do not specify what “contracted services” Vertol provided to the department, and it is unclear whether the two payments were for two flights to Martha’s Vineyard that were flown by Ultimate Jet Charters, a separate private jet company, and he exploited them. Ohio.
Delaware is preparing for a possible influx of migrants
Preparations were made overnight after flight tracking sites showed a flight plan submitted to a commercial programmer and the Federal Aviation Administration that resembled one of the Ultimate Jet charter planes used on the Martha’s Vineyard flights. Sites listed from Kelly Field in San Antonio to a short stop in Crestview, Florida and Georgetown, Delaware.
Texas Sheriff Salazar said Wednesday that he expected another flight on Tuesday, but plans changed.
“We said this morning that a flight would arrive in San Antonio and it would be heading to Delaware with migrants,” he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Tuesday. “My understanding is that we were informed at the last minute that the flight was delayed.”
Salazar said they were not given a reason to delay the flight.
Jill Fredel, spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services, said at a press conference Tuesday that they are not aware of any migrants arriving at this time. He said the governor’s office has not received any disclosures from Florida or Texas, but said the state is making preparations just in case.
Gov. John Carney’s office was also aware of the reports and was preparing officials for unannounced migrants arriving, according to Emily David Hershman, a spokeswoman for the governor.
“We are coordinating with federal officials and are prepared to host these families in an orderly manner while they complete their asylum applications,” he said.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Amy Simonson, Paul P. Murphy, Priscilla Alvarez, Steve Contorno, Manu Raju and Kevin Lipta contributed to this report.