Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

As it happenedended1663935403

DeSantis news: Martha’s Vineyard migrant survived torture in Mexico as Delaware flight ‘scam’ revealed

Civil rights groups sue the governor, alleging asylum seekers were victims of a fraudulent scheme exploited for a political stunt

Alex Woodward,Shweta Sharma,John Bowden
Friday 23 September 2022 13:16 BST
Related video: More Migrants Arrive In D.C. As White House Slams Republican Governors

A group of 48 mostly Venezeulan migrants transported from Texas in a surprise flight to Martha’s Vineyard last week have sued governor Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his administartion for allegedly orchestrating a “fraudulent and discriminatory” scheme.

The class action lawsuit comes as at least two law enforcement agencies are also investigating the governor’s plans for allegedly “luring” migrants with false promises of employment and financial assistance.

After the DeSantis administration dismissed reports of a second flight, this time to Delaware, migrants in San Antonio told the Miami-Herald how they were lured to scheduled flight to the state with false promises of employment and aid before it was abruptly canceled.

In the days after the flights, in interviews and in court documents, stories of the migrants and their harrowing journeys to the US-Mexico border have surfaced, including one man’s alleged torture and abuse at the hands of drug cartels.

Governor DeSantis and his aides have repeatedly defended sending migrants to Democratic-leading states and cities in protest of what they characterise as the president’s “open border” policy.


How the DeSantis administration spun the Delaware flight

After DeSantis officials called reports “disinformation” and suggested that Democratic officials and the media got “punked” into believing a migrant flight was headed to Delaware, new reporting reveals how migrants were lured to a hotel with false promises of a flight to the state, where they could receive employment aid and other assistance. Neither would happen.

On Tuesday, the White House said it was coordinating with state officials and aid groups preparing for the potential arrival of a plane with migrants sent from San Antonio to coastal Delaware near the beach home of President Joe Biden.

Local media, aid groups and state officials gathered at the small airport, anticipating its arrival. A flight that left Texas with travel paths through Florida and Tennessee ultimately landed in New Jersey.

At an unrelated press conference on Tuesday, Governor DeSantis said he could not confirm reports of the flight and lambasted Democratic officials who criticised his $12m plan to ship migrants to other states.

“The only thing I hear them getting upset about it is 50 who end up in Martha’s Vineyard,” he said. “Sanctuary jurisdictions should bear the brunt of the open borders.”

Migants interviewed by The Miami-Herald explained how they were taken to a hotel and promised a flight to Delaware, which never came. Some were stranded there, 10 miles from a migrant resource center and shelter, while others were bused back to town without an explanation why they flight was canceled.

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 19:00

‘This was all a scam’: Migrants reveal DeSantis plans for Delaware flight

Days after a group of migrants boarded planes chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, a woman was recruiting other migrants to board another flight – this time from San Antonio to Delaware.

The flight ultimately never happened. State agencies, local aid groups and the White House had coordinated with officials at a coastal airport anticipating the arrival of another plane organised by Florida’s Republican governor.

But around the same time that Mr DeSantis was defending his scheme on Fox News, arguing that migrants signed waivers to “voluntarily” board the Martha’s Vineyard flights, another group of migrants were filling out similar forms from their temporary hotel rooms, preparing for what would they were told was a flight to Delaware, where they would receive financial assistance and employment.

Instead, the group was told early the next morning that the flight was canceled.

‘This was all a scam’: Migrants reveal DeSantis plans for Delaware flight

The governor’s operatives allegedly left asylum seekers stranded after false promises and a canceled flight

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 19:30

Massachusetts lawmaker joins calls for Justice Department to investigate flights

Massachusetts state Rep Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard, and other state lawmakers have joined calls to the US Department of Justice for an investigation into Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s migrant flights.

Lawmakers “believe these and other reported actions intended to mislead” the group of Venezeualan immigrants seeking asylum in the US, “violate their rights and derail ongoing immigration proceedings.”

“We respectfully and urgently request that your office open an investigation regarding the conduct of all those involved ... given the gravity of the situation and the potential for perpetrators to repeat their actions,” according to the letter.

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 20:00

Fact check: GOP governors exaggerate Biden’s role on the border – and ignore the ways he’s like Trump

The Biden administration’s border looks a lot like the one under Trump, despite Governor DeSantis and others claiming the president created a “crisis.”

Migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard also are not “illegal” but were excercising rights protected under US and international law by seeking asylum in America. They already were processed, and released, by authorities.

The Independent’s Josh Marcus looks at some of the claims made by GOP officials to defend migrant busing:

Fact check: Ron DeSantis distorting immigration facts as he defends flights

Governors of Texas and Florida exaggerate Biden’s role in border situation — and ignore ways he’s like Trump

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 20:30

‘He was broken’: Migrants were injured, kidnapped and victims of abuse, according to volunteers

Venezuelan migrants seeking asylum in the US survived injuries, torture and kidnapping during their dangerous trek to the US-Mexico border, according to volunteers who offered support at a shelter on Martha’s Vineyard.

“What they had to go through is horrible,” according to Sergio Racig, who told the Martha’s Vineyard Times that he spent the night with a group of men at the church where the migrants slept during a a two-night stay on the island after unannounced flights from Texas chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had taken them.

One man was “kidnapped in Mexico,” according to Mr Racig. “The cartels kidnapped him and he was tortured.”

The man had a “broken jaw” and “missing teeth” and was receiving psychological support from an interpreter.

“He was broken,” Mr Racig told the newspaper.

Another volunteer called an ambulance for the man to be taken to a local hospital, where he received X-rays and other care.

Edgartown Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer said that two people were transported from the church to nearby care.

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 20:35

Migrants begin leaving Cape Cod shelter after Martha’s Vineyard flights

Following their arrival at a large shelter operation in Cape Cod on Friday, some migrants are beginning to leave the facility and head to other destinations, according to officials.

“They’re all there voluntarily, they all chose to go there, the ones that are there, some have already left to go meet with family and other places in the country,” state Rep Dylan Fernades told The Independent.

For others who are staying at the shelter, there is no “hard timeline” for anyone to leave, and “what happens next for them depends first and foremost what they want to do,” which could depend on their asylum cases and discussions with housing case managers and immigration attorneys, among other factors.

After their apprehension, processing and release at the US-Mexico border, the migrants are on the radar of federal authorities as they await their asylum claims to play out in immigration courts.

“Some of them walked through multiple countries over ... a few days, just to get to America,” Rep Fernandes said. “[They are] asylum seekers seeking asylum from a nefarious, brutal and collapsing Venezuelan regime. They’re here legally.”

Two people have left for New York City, and others planned to go to Salt Lake City, Utah and Seattle, Washington, where they had contacts, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 21:18

Flight company hired by Florida has ties to state officials

Vertol Sytems Company Inc received more than $1.5m from the state of Florida for the governor’s migrant flights. The company and its leadership also have donated tens of thousand of dollars to the state’s GOP figures.

That includes Congressman Matt Gaetz, whose former law partner is the state’s current public safety coordinator – who represented Vertol in at least one civil lawsuit case in 2017, NBC News found.

Read more about the tangle of GOP-connected donors to the governor’s controversial flight plans and where the company’s money is going in the state:

Ron DeSantis chartered migrant flights from GOP donor, report finds

An aviation company hired by the administration donated thousands of dollars to Republican causes, including the governor’s campaign and a state lawmaker central to his legislative agenda

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 21:42

US arrests on Mexico border reach more than 2 million within 11 months

US authorities detained more than 203,000 people crossing into the country from Mexico, according to government figures, which pits the tally to more than 2.3 million arrests within the last 11 months.

That exceeds the previous fiscal year’s record of more than 1.7 million arrests.

Immigration authorities and advocates have both attributed to the historic number of people arriving at the border to government and economic collapse across Central and South America.

“Failing communist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba are driving a new wave of migration across the Western Hemisphere, including the recent increase in encounters at the southwest US border,” according to US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus.

“Our dedicated teams of skilled agents continue to work around the clock to secure our border and safely and humanely process and vet every individual encountered, but those fleeing repressive regimes pose significant challenges for processing and removal,” he said in a statement this week.

“At the same time, the number of migrants entering from Mexico and northern Central America has decreased for the third consecutive month, as the Biden-Harris Administration works with our partners in the region to address the root causes of migration, facilitate repatriation, and take thousands of smugglers off the streets,” he added. “More individuals encountered at the border without a legal basis to remain will be expelled or removed this year than any prior year.”

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 22:30

Fact check: Ron DeSantis distorts immigration facts as he defends migrant flights

How “historic” is the current border situation? Is Joe Biden creating an “open border” that’s responsible for these trends? And were the migrants on the Martha’s Vineyard flight in the US illegally?

Here’s what you need to know, from The Independent’s Josh Marcus:

Fact check: Ron DeSantis distorting immigration facts as he defends flights

Governors of Texas and Florida exaggerate Biden’s role in border situation — and ignore ways he’s like Trump

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 23:00

Migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard were given brochures with false promises of aid and jobs. Who made them?

People seeking asylum in the US were handed official-looking documents before boarding flights to Massachusetts booked by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

But the Massachusetts refugee agency named on the brochues them did not make them. The DeSantis administration won’t say who did, but the governor has defended them.

The brochures are part of a class action lawsuit filed by a group of migrants from Venezuela who arrived on the island last week. Lawyers are demanding answers.

Migrants were given brochures with false promises of aid. Who made them?

People seeking asylum in the US were handed official-looking documents before boarding flights to Massachusetts booked by Governor Ron DeSantis, but the agency named on them did not make them. Lawyers are demanding answers, Alex Woodward reports

Alex Woodward23 September 2022 00:00

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in