Posts Tagged ‘Venezuelan 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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Image by Mike Licht. Get a copy here. Credit; Mike Licht,

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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,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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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Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.