If the migrants were misled into boarding the flights, the ruse used to transport them could constitute fraud, false imprisonment, or kidnapping, lawyer warns.
Sensing potentially criminal irregularities after Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration flew nearly 50 undocumented Colombian and Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book has promised to “get to the bottom of exactly what happened, why, and how.”
Book’s concerns arise from information coming from Geoffrey Freeman, director of the Martha’s Vineyard airport that received the two Florida-funded flights Wednesday. According to Freeman, the flights originated in Texas.
This could mean, Book suggests, that what she calls the DeSantis administration’s “fly-by-night partisan stunt” has violated its own rules:
“On page 494, section 185 of (the 2022 state budget) it is a requisite condition for the use of appropriate funds that your agency […] must first develop and ‘implement a program to facilitate the transportation of unauthorized aliens from this State consistent with Federal law,’” Book wrote in a letter she sent Friday to Jared Perdue, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary.
In her strongly worded message, Book demanded additional information, including the authority or legal opinion used to allow state funds to be spent on transporting people from Texas, and whether a “Ms. Perla,” who allegedly told the migrants they would be granted expedited work permits if they agreed to be relocated, is an FDOT employee.
According to a statement by DeSantis, the migrants on those flights “went from Texas to Florida, to Martha’s Vineyard,” he said, justifying his action by adding that “if they’re intending to come to Florida, or many of them are intending to come to Florida, that’s our best way to make sure that they end up in a sanctuary (jurisdiction).”
Clamoring for ‘Basic Human Decency’
Book is not the only Florida Democrat who condemns DeSantis’ action. Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist, were among those who blasted the governor for using migrants as “political pawns.”
RELATED: He Does It Again! DeSantis Hands Out Checks, But Fails to Say They Come From Federal Plan He Opposed.
One key reason why Florida Democrats are demanding more information, is the issue of whether the migrants boarded the flights freely and voluntarily. The question comes after some told National Public Radio (NPR) that they were told if they traveled to Boston [not Martha’s Vineyard, where they were transported], they could receive “expedited work papers.”
The migrants are seeking asylum from the repressive regime in Venezuela, which means that they may legally remain in the United States while their cases are considered by immigration courts. If they were in fact misled, the ruse used to transport them to Martha’s Vineyard could constitute fraud, false imprisonment, or kidnapping.
“There is absolutely the possibility of both civil and criminal liability if people were lied to about where they were going [or] what they were going to get when they got there,” lawyer Susan Church told Politico.
For this reason, Leader Book says she will not cease in her quest to get answers.
“I fully expect that you have this information available and will provide it to me by the end of the day,” she wrote the FDOT, adding that “basic human decency is not a partisan issue, and the actions of the Governor have rightly alarmed Democrats.”