By Bryn Fawn
Florida governor Ron DeSantis has continued to keep his name in the headlines. Originally his scandals began with his “don’t say gay” bill, and now have shifted to the allegation of trafficking immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Some fear that with American politics inching toward fascism, DeSantis may become the next Donald Trump.
February of this year, DeSantis visited a Holocaust museum, witnessing a cattle car replica used to transport victims. He gave a speech at the convention.
“You can read it on a sheet of paper, but what does that actually mean when you see the tragedy,” DeSantis said in his speech.
Months later, a bombshell dropped. It was revealed DeSantis had filled a plane with immigrants and sent them to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis used $12 million dollars from a program DeSantis signed which was originally intended for deportation. It was also revealed DeSantis had the immigrants profiled at the Texas border, and misled them with gift cards and promises of jobs and homes, according to National Public Radio.
They were then brought to Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. There were no homes, no shelter, no food or support of any kind for these men, women and children. Local authorities were not made aware of their arrival either. These confused people, seeking asylum, were handed false brochures.
These brochures detailed how there were English classes available to them, where they could find work and shelter, and how to finish their legal requirements. On the plane, they were forced to sign their address falsely, mostly to homeless shelters nowhere near Martha’s Vineyard. This was deliberate as they would be required to report to ICE to be seen before a judge. For some it would be within the upcoming week.
These immigrants were following the legal processes. None of these immigrants were going to enter the country illegally. These men, women and children seeking asylum were following the books.
Yet, suddenly they were whisked away and now are plastered all over news headlines. No names have been released. No stories delivered.
Elizabeth Ricci, an immigration attorney from Florida, argues what DeSantis did was human trafficking. “An enticement like [shelter, working papers, etc.], regardless of whether you sign a waiver, is fraud and that is part of the definition of human trafficking,” Ricci told NPR.
Residents in Martha’s Vineyard came together as a community and scrambled to provide their new neighbors with whatever they could.
Attorney Rachel Self gave a public statement regarding the situation, documented by many media outlets.
“[The immigrants] were lied to again and again,” Self stated. “They [were told] there would be jobs and housing awaiting for them when they arrived. This was obviously a sadistic lie.”
Self continued to explain and even show the map and brochure given to the immigrants. Self also explained how the website given to the immigrants was incorrect to register addresses, which could jeopardize their case.
“It is clear this was an intentional attempt to ensure that these migrants were removed [unintelligible] when they failed to change their address with the proper agency. This was a purposeful derailment designed to prevent people from complying with federal immigration policies. This is problematic because the state should not be interfering with federal immigration policy,” said Self.
Self continued to share what the immigrants experienced on the plane, and how Homeland Security officers falsified their paperwork, giving the immigrants random addresses where they could not possibly report to ICE.
“It could not be clearer that this is an attempt to ensure that these people are ordered removed, even as they try as hard they can to comply with the instructions provided to them. There is no other reason to list someone’s address as a homeless shelter in Tacoma, Washington when they ship him to Massachusetts. It is sickenly cruel, throwing obstacles in the way of people fleeing violence and oppression.” Self said.
Yet, this is not the end for DeSantis’ PR team.
It has been revealed DeSantis’ appointed County Commissioner was photographed in a Klu Klux Klan outfit, smiling widely. He has swiftly resigned with the drama surrounding the image. The image had originally made its rounds in Gadsden County, and was eventually brought to the attention of Sheriff Morris Young. Young reported to Politico that he brought the photograph to Jeff Moore, the County Commissioner. Moore did not deny that it was him in the photograph.
“I’m not surprised DeSantis would appoint someone with this ideology, it’s the kind of person I can see him picking,” President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Tallahassee Chapter Mutaqee Akbar told Politico.
Florida’s Secretary of State, Michael Ertel, has also been revealed to be photographed in blackface, mocking Hurricane Katrina victims. The Tallahassee Democrat originally obtained the photograph and released it to the public. Ertel has also resigned with the coverage of his history. DeSantis has stated he is sad to see Ertel go, but also does not wish to reap the backlash of having a racist tied to his campaign.
It is hard to say if this is the end or just the beginning of scandals for DeSantis. Yet, it is evident that his words given in his speech are still relevant today.