MIAMI – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to send a group of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard continues to attract criticism from political opponents, as well as a criminal investigation and lawsuit, but the governor has remained steadfast defending the move.
DeSantis’ Democratic opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial election, Charlie Crist, held a town hall with Venezuelan-Americans Wednesday.
“This governor has turned his back on Florida and he’s turned his back on Venezuelans and Hispanic Floridians,” Crist said.
Attorneys in a class-action lawsuit, calling the move a “a premeditated, fraudulent and illegal scheme,” filed by the migrants held their own news conferenced Wednesday.
“The perpetrators abandoned them without shelter, food, resources or support on Martha’s Vineyard,” attorney Alyssa Pacheco said.
DeSantis has pushed back, insisting everything has been done within the letter of the law.
He says the families went from being homeless and hungry near the border to a fresh start in a sanctuary state and voluntarily signed consent forms for the flights.
Attorneys are pushing back.
“The form was not fully translated,” Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said. “It was missing material information.”
Relocations from the border by bus and plane have been ongoing, though the move of Venezuelans to Martha’s Vineyard has drawn so much more attention and outrage, perhaps by design.
The migrant flight has become a national conversation.
Political experts weighed in as part of a Twitter Spaces event Wednesday.
“Because of DeSantis’ national brand, this got a lot of attention,” one said.
“This is turf that Republicans know how to play on,” another said.
The move allowed the governor to divert attention from the abortion debate and made immigration front-and-center as an election issue.
“About this time in 2018 is when we started to hear of ‘caravans’ coming north,” an expert said.
Meanwhile, the attorneys for the Massachusetts migrants say the attention has not been all supportive.
Attorneys said they have been receiving hate mail and death threats and for that reason, they won the right to keep their names out of the lawsuit. Therefore, they are now all known as “Does” in the suit.