Posts Tagged ‘Refugees’

DeSantis Refugee Trafficking: Contracting Fraud?

October 4, 2022

DeSantis Refugee Trafficking: Contracting Fraud?
As you may recall, Florida MAGA/GOP governor Ron DeSantis used newly-arrived Venezuelan refugees (including women and children) in a political stunt, flying them to the rural island of Martha’s Vineyard. He couldn’t find enough unauthorized migrants in Florida, so he flew 48 of them from Texas in two state-funded charter jets at a cost of $1200 per passenger. DeSantis paid for the migrant flights with CARES Act federal COVID stimulus money (actually with the interest accrued from the $8 billion in federal COVID-relief funding he banked instead of using it to help Floridians, so there’s that).

Besides possible federal COVID fund fraud charges and fraud suits by the refugees themselves, the airlift excerise raises other legal red flags:

  • The flights and two future missons (cost: over $1.5 millon) were paid out of $12 million budgeted with the Florida Department of Transportation for “a program to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law.” But the migrants were in Texas, not Florida. There’s a lawsuit about that.


“Doubts rise over whether DeSantis had budget authority to fly migrants,” Gary Fineout, Politico

“DeSantis violated law with Martha’s Vineyard flights, Florida Democrats say,” Anna Ceballos, Tampa Bay Times

“Florida migrant-moving company gave GOP cash, has ties to DeSantis’ immigration ‘czar’ and Rep. Matt Gaetz,” Marc Caputo, NBC News

“DeSantis Chartered Planes From GOP-Allied Donor To Fly Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard,” Ken Klippenstein, The Intercept

Funding for furture flights might dry up faster than post-Ian Florida, as the governor is likely to use the pot of federal CARES Act money to augment other hurricane relief funds. That shouldn’t let him off the hook for his Vineyard stunt.

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DeSantis Refugee Trafficking Fallout

September 22, 2022

DeSantis Refugee Trafficking Fallout

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the future of the MAGA GOP, is basking in the afterglow of flying 48 Venezuelan refugees from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard to “own the Libs,”spending $615,000 in public funds on two charter jets. That’s a cost of $12,300 for each refugee DeSantis trafficked for his own political purposes.

DeSantis still has almost $11.5 million more in purloined federal COVID relief funds left, so he’s doubling down. There’s been a further payment of $950,000, possibly for flights to Delaware (Joe Biden’s home state) or New Jersey. The charter jet contractor, Vertol Systems, owned by Republican donor James Montgomerie, purchased helicopters from Russian government-controlled companies, and received a PPP loan of $255,583 in 2020, during the Trump Administration. Vertol has been associated with James Odom, who went to prison for laundering campaign funds for Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. It’s not clear if Vertol got a sole-source contract; they’re certainly not the only charter jet outfit in Florida, so state procurement officials should take a look at that, if they’re not afraid of poltical retribution.

DeSantis and his cronies may be liable for other crimes. They fraudulently lured unsuspecting refugee men, women, and children from Texas to a small, isolated town in Massachusetts, promising non-existant jobs and housing. The refugees are suing for fraud, and a Texas sheriff is looking into the matter.

Is it interstate human trafficking? It may be a gray area but, in any case, it’s certainly cruel. Of course, that’s the point.


“DeSantis risks voter backlash in Florida with migrant flights,” Max Greenwood and Ann Parnes, The Hill


“Massachusetts seeks human trafficking probe targeting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over migrants,” John Bacon and Rachael Devaney, USA Today

“The smoking gun in Martha’s Vineyard,” Judd Legum, Popular Information 

“Senator Ted Cruz says that transporting migrants is illegal, but commends GOP governors for it anyway,” Alia Shoaib, Insider

“DeSantis actions on migrants is ‘mini-ethnic cleansing’, expert warns,” Stephanie Kirchgaessner, The Guardian


Image (“DeSantis Immigration Hat”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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DeSantis: Cheap Trafficking In Human Misery

September 19, 2022

Florida MAGA/GOP governor Ron DeSantis is using newly-arrived refugees — many of them women and children — as hostages, political pawns in a cheap stunt, flying them to the rural island of Martha’s Vineyard. Somehow, he couldn’t find enough unauthorized migrants in his own state of Florida, so he imported 48 of them — by two state-funded charter jets — from Texas. DeSantis paid for the migrant flights with federal COVID stimulus money he didn’t spend on the needs of Florida citizens.

Bear in mind that the migrants, refugees from failed petro-socialist Venuzuela, are registered with DHS as Asylum Seekers; they are not the criminals DeSantis implies they are. Martha’s Vineyard has no immigration court or ICE center, so the migrants can’t check-in or recieve adjudication, which could jeopardize their status if they don’t get to a major city soon.

In this cruel Republican game, DeSantis is playing catch-up. MAGA governors Greg Abbot (Texas) and Doug Ducey (Arizona) have been sending migrants to New York, Chicago, and DC by chartered bus, often mis-representing where they are going and falsely promising migrants jobs when they arrive. A similar federal strategy was suggested in 2019 by Trump creature Stephen Miller. He threated to cut ICE funding if the federal agency didn’t send migrants to Democratic jurisdictions (it didn’t happen).

And where did lizard-person Stephen Miller get the idea? From short-lived stunts by the racist White Citizens’ Councils of the 1960s, so-called “Reverse Freedom Rides,” which bused Black Americans from the South to Northern cities. Like today’s people-traffickers DeSantis, Ducey, and Abbot, the racist Councils promised that jobs awaited the travelers at their destinations. One bus went to Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1962, where the Kennedy family had a summer home. This past July 26th, Fox News host Tucker Carlson publicly floated the idea of sending refugees to Martha’s Vineyard, pointing out that the Obama’s own a vacation home there.

In 1962, editors of the New York Times called the racist “Reverse Freedom Rides” a “cheap trafficking in human misery.” That’s certainly true for the stunts of MAGA migrant traffickers DeSantis, Abbot, and Ducey.


“Planeloads of Venezuelan Migrants Arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport,” Brooke Kushwaha, Vineyard Gazette

“Migrants stranded in Martha’s Vineyard say they were lied to,”Bianca Padró Ocasio, Tampa Bay Times

“Martha’s Vineyard Migrants Leave Island as Outrage at DeSantis Grows,” Chas Danner, New York Magazine

“DeSantis gave GOP donors a glimpse of plans for migrant flights,” Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer, and Isaac Arnsdorf, Washington Post

“DeSantis Flying Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard May Have Violated Federal Law, Experts Say,” Nikki McCann Ramirez, Rolling Stone

“Surprise is key part of migrant travel from Florida, Texas,” Rodrique Ngowi, Gisela Salomon, and Claudia Torrens, Associated Press


“Ron DeSantis Flew Immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Echoing a Racist Stunt From Exactly 60 Years Ago,” Kate Storey, Esquire

“JFK Library compares DeSantis migrants move to historic ‘Reverse Freedom Rides,’” Graeme Massie, The Independent, via Yahoo News

“This Isn’t the First Time White Racists Have Sent Migrants North on Buses (Though Using Planes Is New),” Kali Holloway, Daily Beast

“The Cruel Story Behind The ‘Reverse Freedom Rides,'” Gabrielle Emanuel, NPR Code Switch

“Biden officials to discuss ‘litigation options’ over migrant buses,” Stef W. Kight, Axios 

“Why Belarus is using migrants as a political weapon,” Ellen Ioanes, Vox

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Who Clogged the Afghan Refugee Pipeline? Stephen Miller.

August 25, 2021

Who Clogged the Afghan Refugee Pipeline? Stephen Miller.

The airlift of endangered Afghan refugees from Taliban-controlled Kabul is hampered by a lengthy and convoluted visa process, which had a backlog of 20,000 applicants before the fall of the corrupt Karzai government. In 2018 the Pentagon urged the Trump administration to expedite Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan nationals who had assisted US and NATO forces, but this was denied.

Olivia Troye, homeland security and counterterrorism advisor to former Vice President Mike Pence, says all efforts to fast-track Afghan visas were sabotaged by Stephen Miller, racist and Islamophobe-In-Residence at the Trump White House. This was confirmed by Elizabeth Neumann, a former senior DNS official. Matt Zeller, Afghanistan combat veteran and former CIA officer, says Stephen Miller “should be held accountable for war crimes” for his refugee visa obstruction.


“Pence aide blames Stephen Miller for ‘devastating’ visa system for Afghans,” Maureen Groppe, USA Today

“Stephen Miller peddled ‘racist hysteria about Afghanistan’ and gummed up refugee process: Ex-Pence adviser,” Raw Story


Grover meets Secretary of State Nominee Antony Blinken

January 22, 2021

Back when Antony Blinken was Deputy Secretary of State, he was dispatched on a special mission to Sesame Street, meeting with muppet Grover at the UN. Mr. Blinken, who fronts a “dad band” named ABlinken (get it?), is Joseph Biden’s pick for Secretary of State.


“Blinken pledges ‘humility and confidence’ as secretary of State,” Natasha Bertrand, Politico

“Antony Blinken’s confirmation hearing: 5 things to know about Biden’s secretary of state nominee,” Deirdre Shesgreen, USA Today

“Blinken wins praise for pledge to consult Hill on diplomacy,” Rachel Oswald, The Hill


“Senate confirms Antony Blinken as secretary of state,” Shawna Chen, Axios

“Senate confirms Antony Blinken as Biden’s secretary of State,” Laura Kelly, The Hill

“Secretary Of State Nominee Blinken Promises A Reengaged America Abroad,” Michele Kelemen, NPR News

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Stephen Miller Wouldn’t Let His Own Great-Grandparents Into the US

September 6, 2018

Stephen Miller Wouldn't Let His Own Great-Grandparents Into the US

After cutting the number of U.S. refugees in half last year, White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller wants to slash it even more. The US resettled about 97,000 refugees in 2016, slightly under the 100,000 limit. In 2017 the country admitted 33,000 refugees, well under the 44,000 cap, an historic low. That’s not low enough for Stephen Miller; he wants 2018 refugee admissions limited to 15,000. Indications are that the Trump Administration will ultimately lower the refugee cap to 22,000. This is in the face of a global refugee crisis, the worst since World War II. Jennifer Arangio, a senior White House official, annoyed Mr. Miller and cronies by advocating honoring US international refugee agreements, and was fired late last month.

Stephen Miller’s maternal great-grandparents, Wolf and Bessie Glotzer, arrived in New York in 1903 as refugees from anti-Jewish rioting in Belarus. They were broke, didn’t speak English, and were “chain migrants,” joining Wolf’s brother-in-law, Schmuel Levine, a Russian army draft dodger, who had come to the US before them.

Think Stephen Miller would have let people like that enter the country? Even his own uncle doesn’t think so.


“Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.” David S. Glosser, Politico

“White House Weighs Another Reduction in Refugees Admitted to U.S.,” Julie Hirschfeld Davis, New York Times


“Stephen Miller, meet your immigrant great-grandfather,” Rob Eshman, Jewish Journal

“Trump Administration Rejects Study Showing Positive Impact of Refugees,” Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Somini Sengupta, New York Times

“How Would Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Have Affected His Own Team?” Jennifer Mendelsohn, Politico

“There’s no [US] immigration crisis, and these charts prove it,” Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post

“Inside Stephen Miller’s hostile takeover of immigration policy,” Nahal Toosi, Politico

“’There Won’t Even Be a Paper Trail’: Has Stephen Miller Become a Shadow Master at the State Department?” Abigail Tracy, Vanity Fair


“Trump aide Stephen Miller condemned by childhood rabbi,” Andrew Gumbel, The Guardian


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Trump Blames Dems for His Own Parent-Child Separation Policy

May 31, 2018

Trump Blames Dems for His Own Parent-Child Separation Policy

During the weekend, President and part-time parent Donald Trump blamed Democrats for a U.S. policy separating undocumented parents and children at the border. “Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the U.S.,” he tweeted on Saturday.

But there is no such law, and it wasn’t Democrats who instituted that policy, it was the Trump Administration. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 7th. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Separating parents and children isn’t cruel, explained White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.“The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.”


“Trump is blaming Democrats for separating migrant families at the border. Here’s why this isn’t a surprise.” Seung Min Kim, Washington Post

“Hidden Horrors of ‘Zero Tolerance’ — Mass Trials and Children Taken From Their Parents,” Debbie Nathan, The Intercept

“Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ at the border is causing child shelters to fill up fast,” Nick Miroff, Washington Post

“Trump administration preparing to hold immigrant children on military bases,” Nick Miroff and Paul Sonne, Washington Post

“Ivanka Trump photo with son sparks backlash over border separations,” Tom McCarthy, The Guardian 

“How the Trump Administration Got Comfortable Separating Immigrant Kids from Their Parents,” Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker

“Blowback over border separations amps up tensions inside Trump administration,” Nancy Cook and Ted Hesson, Politico

“A moral crisis grips the US border. Yet the religious right is shamefully silent,” Marilynne Robinson, The Guardian

“U.S. Border Stations Are Now Overflowing With Migrant Children,”Ashley Hackett, Pacific Standard


“UN says US must stop separating migrant children from parents,” AFP via The Guardian

“I work with children separated from caregivers at the border. What happens is unforgivable.” 

“Federal judge advances ACLU lawsuit challenging separation of parents, children at border,” Brooke Seipel, The Hill

“Trump quadruples down on false claim that ‘Democrat rules’ are forcing his administration to separate immigrant families,” Summer Meza, The Week

“Honduran Man Killed Himself After Being Separated From Family at Border,” Benjamin Hart, New York Magazine

“‘They just took them?’ Frantic parents separated from their kids fill courts on the border,” Michael E. Miller, Washington Post

“Separating Children From Their Parents Is a New Low for Our Immigration System,” Michelle Chen, The Nation

“‘Children are being used as a tool’ in Trump’s effort to stop border crossings,” Liz Goodwin, Boston Globe

“‘Mothers could not stop crying’: Lawmaker blasts Trump policy after visiting detained immigrants,” Amy B. Wang, Washington Post

“Report: Trump administration looks to build tent villages for migrant children,” Stef W. Kight, Axios

“Hugh Hewitt to Jeff Sessions: Why Is It Necessary To Separate Parents From Children When Detained At Border?” Tim Hains, RCP Livewire

“Immigrant moms in SeaTac prison ‘could hear their children screaming,'” Casey Martin, KUOW

“President of Catholic bishops group calls policy separating migrant families ‘immoral,’” Luis Sanchez, The Hill

“CNN: Jailed Immigrant Mother Says Child Was Taken During Breastfeeding,” Matt Shuham, TPM Livewire


“Dr. Ruth, Dr. Kissinger, and Trump’s Cruelty to Families,” George Packer, The New Yorker


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Illustration by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geissel), from the PM newspaper, October 1, 1941.  See more here.

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September 8, 2015


Thousands of desperate Syrians are fleeing their war-torn homeland for Europe, and Europeans react with grief or fear or shame or sympathy. But while their governments may be slow to help the new arrivals, families and churches are not:

“Germans Open Their Homes To Refugee Roommates,” Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News

“Why Austrians are opening their homes to refugees,” Maddy French, Aljazeera

“Activist convoy picks up migrants,” BBC News

“Amid unabated refugees crisis, pope calls on parishes to take in families,” Anthony Faiola and Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post

“Migrant crisis: the volunteers stepping in to help,” Joel Gunter, BBC News

“Finnish PM offers his home to asylum seekers,” Umut Uras, Aljazeera

“Bayern Munich donate $1.1 million to help refugees,” Tom McGowan, CNN

“Pope: Vatican will shelter 2 families fleeing war, hunger,” Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press

“Chile mulls plan to take in Syrian refugees,” Reuters via Jerusalem Post

“IOC sets up $2m fund for refugee crisis,” Aljazeera

“City of Sanctuary: Bristol rallies to help refugees as aid network swells,” Alexandra Topping, The Guardian

“Icelandic generosity could potentially help thousands of Syrian refugees,” Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post

“Munich mayor: I don’t think about numbers, only refugees’ safety,” Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian

“Google donates €1 million to help refugees in need,” Mark Wilson, BetaNews

“No ‘upper limit’ on number of refugees Ireland will take,” Sarah Bardon, Irish Times

“Australia ready to take more refugees from Syria, Tony Abbott says,” Sydney Morning Herald

“Some Israelis want to take in Syrian refugees. Netanyahu says no.” Ruth Eglash, Washingtton Post

“Syrian refugees challenge us to be better,” Tim Rogers, Fusion