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

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


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.


DeSantis leads Trump in purple-red Florida amid migrants controversy

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis now leads Donald Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup among voters in Florida, according to a new Axios poll.

The development comes as Mr DeSantis has become a hero on the far right for his effort to use state funding to transport migrants from Texas to Democrat-held areas, even as he admits that large groups of migrants entering his state remain nonexsistent.

The performance in the poll is notable, too, because Donald Trump won the Florida primary against Sen Marco Rubio, the state’s senior senator, during the 2016 primary in what was one of his last moves to eliminate his rivals in the GOP presidential contest.

Read more at Axios:

John Bowden22 September 2022 11:00

Migrant says he was paid to recruit migrants for Florida’s controversial Martha’s Vineyard flights

A 27-year-old Venezuelan migrant says he was given $200 to entice his fellow asylum-seekers to board planes or buses bound for Democrat-held areas chartered by Florida’s governor.

And he was instructed to do so with promises of aid that never materialised or was ever real to begin with, he now says.

If true, it would prove that Florida officials used deceptive practices to lure migrants thousands of miles across the United States for purely political reasons.

Migrant says he was paid to recruit others for Martha’s Vineyard flight

Migrants have said they were falsely promised work and housing

John Bowden22 September 2022 13:00

Holly Baxter: ‘Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott seem to be using migrants to put across their extreme views'

Writing for The Independent Premium, US editor of Voices Holly Baxter writes how two Republican governors are ramping up political stunts ahead of the midterms at the expense of vulnerable migrants and their families:

DeSantis and Abbott using migrants to put across their extreme views | Holly Baxter

Republican governors are ramping up political stunts ahead of the midterms, thinks Holly Baxter

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 14:24

False promises, a legal investigation and a mystery woman: Unanswered questions about Ron DeSantis's migrant flights

After two nights in a church shelter, migrants who arrived in Massachusetts were moved to a larger shelter operation on the mainland, with separate rooms and medical and legal support. State officials report that the families are in “good health and good spirits,” with access to legal services, humanitarian aid and interpreters.

But so much remains unclear about the migrants’ journey, how Florida officials are identifying and collecting migrants in other states as part of the Republican governor’s state-sanctioned plans to send them to Democratic-leading states and cities, and how funding earmarked for his scheme is paying for it from several states away.

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 15:00

Texas sheriff faces ‘influx’ of threats for investigating migrant flights

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar’s office has reportedly received numberous “hateful emails” and threats after announcing an investigation into migrant flights out of San Antonio, coordinated by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration, several states away.

Texas sheriff threatened for investigating DeSantis’s migrant flights

The Florida governor claims that the migrants boarded the flights willingly

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 15:30

Jared Kushner condemns DeSantis’s migrant flights

Trump’s son-in-law and former aide Jared Kushner said he was “very troubled” by Governor DeSantis’s plans to fly migrants from the US-Mexico border to Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr Kushner appeared on Fox News’ Outnumbered in the aftermath of last week’s scheme, while Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey continue to sending migrants who crossed the border to cities like Washington DC and New York.

“I personally watch what’s happening, and it’s very hard to see at the southern border, I also – we have to remember that these are human beings, they’re people, so seeing them being used as political pawns one way or the other is very troubling to me,” Mr Kushner said.

Jared Kushner condemns DeSantis’s migrant flights

The Florida governor is seen as a potential challenger to Donald Trump in 2024.

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 16:00

Beto O’Rourke slams Greg Abbott’s ‘cruel and unkind’ migrant ‘stunts'

During an appearance on The Daily Show, Democratic candidate for Texas governor Beto O’Rourke slammed Greg Abbot’s ongoing scheme to send hundreds of migrants in the state to Democratic-led states and cities.

He condemned the Republican governor’s “cruel and unkind” “stunts” that have bused migrants and families hundreds of miles from where their asylum cases have originated, largely stranding them at the mercy of local aid groups in the cities where they have arrived.

“What if Texas led the way in rewriting our immigration laws to reflect our values, our interests and our needs, and we said, ‘Look, [if] you want to come to this country, you must follow our laws,’ but our laws will follow our values,” Mr O’Rourke said.

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 16:30

Massachusetts lawmaker: Migrant families ‘incredibly grateful’ following move to Cape Cod shelter

Massachusetts state representative Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard, told The Independent that the Venezuelan immigrants who arrived on the island are “incredibly grateful” for the community support, and are in good health following a move to a larger Cape Cod shelter.

“Everyone’s needs are more than met,” he told The Independent on Thursday, one week after their surprise arrival in the state.

“Every person ... has their own space, families have their own space. There’s a lot of access to health care, and including dental health and other types of care, like crisis management and mental health,” he said.

Caseworkers from housing organisations are helping them with longer-term housing solutions, and immigration attorneys also are assisting with their asylum cases and navigating their legal status and resource while in the US.

“The people who are there are in good spirits and good health and are deeply appreciative,” he said.

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 17:25

‘They opened up their phone when they landed and saw they were surrounded by water'

The group of migrants who landed on Martha’s Vineyard last week were initially “terrified” after learning that the planes were landing on the island, not on the mainland in Boston, where they would have closer access to immigration services and other assistance.

“None of them knew they were going to Martha’s Vineyard,” state Rep Dylan Fernandes told The Independent.

“They opened up their phone when they landed and saw they were surrounded by water. And that was incredibly anxiety provoking to them,” he asid. “Te community here on the Vineyard, I think, showed what being compassionate [is] and just treating human beings with common dignity and respect that every human being deserves. ... That’s what our community is all about.”

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 18:10

DeSantis aides said the media and Democrats got ‘punked’ by the Delaware flight that never happened. Migrants say they were duped

After state agencies, immigration attorneys and humanitarian aid groups huddled at an airport in Delaware, anticipating the arrival of a plane with migrants from San Antonio, a person close to the DeSantis administration suggested the media and others got “punked”.

Right-wing media, DeSantis aides and other personalities mocked the Biden administration and others for anticipating the flight. His campaign rapid response director Christina Pushaw called reports of the flight “disinformation.”

But a group of migrants told the Miami-Herald that they were recruited by a woman who brought them to a hotel before planned flight to Delaware – relying on the same false promises given to the group of migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard last week.

The flight was ultimately canceled, and the group was stranded at the hotel or sent back to a San Antonio.

Alex Woodward22 September 2022 18:26

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