In a disgusting but not shocking move, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis flew four dozen migrants from Texas to Massachusetts, using human beings as political pawns and red meat to feed his rabid base.
But a cruel twist of fate, the Florida House Democratic caucus pointed out that DeSantis got the money to waste on trafficking people from interest earned on unspent funds from Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Funds that could have helped Floridians impacted by Covid were instead spent on transporting migrants from Texas to Florida, then on to North Carolina, and eventually to Martha’s Vineyard.
BTW: This was done using interest earned from unspent COVID recovery money. How many businesses closed, families evicted, etc. while this Federal money sat in the bank, earning interest for political stunts for DeSantis' political ambitions? https://t.co/KFYaz2bNtW
— Florida House Democrats (@FLHouseDems) September 15, 2022
Migrants, including children and many from Venezuela, were approached at a San Antonio shelter and told they were being flown to Boston—which was a lie.
Instead, the asylum seekers were dropped off in Martha’s Vineyard, having no idea where they were and what to do.
A woman referred to only as “Perla” “approached them outside the shelter and lured them into boarding the plane saying they would be flown to Boston where they could get expedited work papers.” According to NPR:
“Perla was still trying to recruit more passengers just hours before their flight.”
In a statement, DeSantis says the Florida legislature approved funding for the maneuver earlier in the year.
He attempted to justify activities with tax dollars that amounts to human trafficking or smuggling, saying, “States like Massachusetts, New York, California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invite into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration.”
Except migrants are being lied to, not told where they are going, and transported across state lines for political reasons.
“We have talked to a number of people who’ve asked, ‘Where am I?’ And then I was trying to explain where Martha’s Vineyard is,” – Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee.
Weaponizing immigrants for political reasons is nothing new. Just last year, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko gave out visas across the Middle East, only to send the immigrants to the Polish border and tell them to request asylum in the EU.
Notably, Lukashenko calls himself “the last dictator in Europe.”
What Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis are doing to migrants is not that different from what Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenka did, luring Middle Easter migrants and pushing them through harsh, winter terrain over the Polish border. For authoritarians, people are just pawns.
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) September 15, 2022
The Florida governor’s latest stunt drew criticism from Massachusetts residents and local officials such as state Sen. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard:
“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane. Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told where they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming. It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”
Especially egregious is the lack of communication from the Sunshine State’s governor, who used COVID relief funds to fund this sickening stunt. That left the Massachusetts enclave to scramble to get the supplies needed to care for their newest guests.
Though 50 is far less than the thousands of migrants Texas Governor Greg Abbott has transported north, it’s no less horrendous.
For Republicans, people are just pawns—existing solely for the propagandizing of their culture wars and furthering the right-wing nationalist agenda.
But the political stunt may just have backfired. A resident of the Vineyard praised her community for coming together to offer food and shelter to the migrants while condemning the inhumane actions and motives of Gov. DeSantis.
Martha's Vineyard resident with some words pic.twitter.com/eMaZFjCbG0
— Julie S (@jaxcarys) September 15, 2022
The slope is getting increasingly slippery, precipitating a fast and furious decline into full-on authoritarianism.
Only two weeks ago, DeSantis removed an entire slate of elected school board members in South Florida, replacing them with loyalists, after taking out an elected prosecutor, all for political reasons.
The actions of Republican governors like DeSantis, Abbott, and Arizona’s Doug Ducey send a message that America is no longer the beacon of hope and democracy but one of oppression and fascism—everything we used to fight against.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick.