TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In response to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis controversial decision to transfer migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other non-profit immigrant rights organizations have filed a lawsuit against him.
In a federal court in Miami on Thursday, the plaintiffs, who include the Florida Immigrant Coalition, presented their case on behalf of three separate organizations. The lawsuit filed against DeSantis and the state’s transportation secretary argues that Florida’s program is unconstitutional because the state is “usurping the sole role in regulating and enforcing immigration law” that belongs to the federal government.
This led the DeSantis administration to fly nearly 50 migrants, most of whom were from Venezuela, from San Antonio to Massachusetts in September. The lawsuit was filed against DeSantis and the state’s transportation secretary. The lawsuit also asserts that the program is biased and constitutes “state-sponsored harassment of immigrants based on race, color, and national origin.” This is one of the allegations that support the plaintiffs’ decision to file suit.
Paul Chavez, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, said in a statement that “the Constitution is clear — the sole and exclusive power to regulate immigration policy is granted to the federal government, not the states.”
“The scheme by Gov. DeSantis and the state of Florida to use taxpayer funds for the relocation of ‘unauthorized alien'” is a blatant and unlawful attempt to harass immigrants at the state level, as stated in the article “The Scheme by Gov. DeSantis and the State of Florida to Use Taxpayer Funds for the ‘Relocation’ of ‘Unauthor
DeSantis has stated in the past that he made arrangements for migrants to be relocated to call attention to the immigration policies that were in place during the Biden administration. He asserted that the migrants had freely left their homes.
In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the communications director for DeSantis, Taryn Fenske, said that the program was “lawfully conducted under an appropriation of the Florida state legislature” (that, incidentally, had bipartisan support.) This program does not break any laws enacted by the federal government. We will keep fighting these politically driven, legally frivolous lawsuits to defend the state’s activities.
However, the flights provoked a significant outcry from Democrats and other individuals. While an investigation into the trips is being conducted in Texas by a sheriff, a watchdog within the Treasury Department is looking into whether or whether the governor inappropriately used money tied to federal Covid-19 relief to pay for the travels.
Lawyers for Civil Rights, based in Boston, have also initiated a federal class action lawsuit against the governor, accusing him of infringing on the rights of the migrants by pressuring them to board flights to Massachusetts by using “false promises and misrepresentations.” The lawsuit was filed in federal court.
Even though the government has only transported one group of migrants at this point, Governor DeSantis has pledged to use all of the $12 million that was allocated by the Florida Legislature for the migrant relocation program. A corporation situated in the Panhandle has been paid a total of $1.56 million by the state of Florida so far.
The lawsuit contends that the organizations, which also include Americans for Immigrant Justice and Hope CommUnity Center, are harmed because they are diverting resources from their “core missions” to assist immigrants in dealing with the aftermath of the migrant relocation program implemented by the DeSantis administration.
The organizations are requesting that an unconstitutional ruling be issued by a federal judge about the program, which would prevent any more flights from being carried out by the DeSantis administration.
This is the fourth lawsuit that has been filed about migrant planes. In addition to the lawsuit filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights, an open government organization known as the Florida Center for Government Accountability also filed a lawsuit against the DeSantis administration for allegedly concealing public data that were connected to the flights.
Jason Pizzo, a Democrat representing Florida in the state legislature, filed a lawsuit against the administration to prevent the governor from spending further money on the flights. In November, a judge ruled that Pizzo’s case should be thrown out on procedural grounds.
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