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DeSantis’ Transportation of Migrants Spurs Legal Challenges

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Ron DeSantis | Image by Tristan Wheelock, Bloomberg

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In the aftermath of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis flying roughly 50 migrants to the Martha’s Vineyard enclave in Massachusetts, several legal battles have commenced concerning the transportation exercise.

As reported by The Dallas Express, Gov. DeSantis ordered and facilitated the transport of several dozen Venezuelan asylum seekers to the affluent Martha’s Vineyard to bring attention to the alleged lack of border security which heavily burdens southern border states.

Prior to transit, the migrants signed a consent form, written in both English and Spanish, explicitly stating that the signee agreed “to hold the benefactor or its designated representatives harmless of all liability arising out of or in any way relating to any injuries and damages that may occur … until the final destination of Massachusetts.”

Also provided was a pamphlet with information concerning “Massachusetts Refugee Benefits.” On both the inside and outside panels, it provided information taken from Massachusetts’s Office for Refugees and Immigration Programs and Services.

It is unclear whether these flyers were distributed by the Florida government. However, activists have suggested that the migrants were wrongfully lured to give their consent because they do not currently qualify for the benefits promised.

While the migrants were all asylum seekers, they reportedly still needed to go through the legal process to be classified as refugees and qualify for the benefits package. The Boston-based organization Lawyers for Civil Rights have sued on behalf of some migrants, alleging that their constitutional rights were violated such as the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment.

As the flights initially took off in San Antonio, the sheriff of Bexar County has similarly signaled his intention to investigate the potential criminality of the flights on grounds of alleged fraud.

Sheriff Javier Salazar did not provide any specific statutes violated; however, he suggested, “I believe there is some criminal activity involved here.”

The sheriff claimed, “But at present, we are trying to keep an open mind, and we are going to investigate to find out what exact laws were broken if that does turn out to be the case.”

Legal experts have expressed uncertainty about whether the legal claims hold merit. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley dismissed the sheriff’s explanation, saying, “I don’t see a case. Unless they can establish some systemic coercion or fraud, there’s really not a federal crime here.”

Turley also pointed to the tens of thousands of migrants flown to cities across the country by the Biden administration. They present a similar legal situation to DeSantis’s effort.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that in 2021 it flew almost 72,000 migrants to nearly two dozen locations across the county. These flights often occurred at night, and without alerting local officials, the New York Post reported.

At least 70 flights were sent to Jacksonville, Florida, alone. State officials learned of these flights only after local police informed them of the planes arriving.

DeSantis has defended his actions, claiming, “It was clearly voluntary, and all the other nonsense you’re hearing is just not true.”

While the legal battles play out, crossings along the southern border continue to reach unparalleled proportions.

This year alone, over 2 million arrests have been made by border enforcement agents, as reported by The Dallas Express. Estimates suggest that over 15.5 million unlawful migrants currently reside in the United States, costing the country roughly $143 billion annually.

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