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Venezuelan migrants in Martha's Vineyard
A group of migrants huddle on a sidewalk in front of St. Andrews Episcopal Church on September 15.Jonathan Wiggs / Boston Globe via Getty Images

The problem(s) with DeSantis’ line on his Martha’s Vineyard stunt

Team DeSantis lured migrants onto a plane and flew them to Martha’s Vineyard because they were thinking about traveling to Florida? That doesn't add up.


The good news is, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has tried to defend his Martha’s Vineyard stunt. The bad news is, the Republican’s line still needs some work. The Washington Post reported:

The Florida governor — widely considered a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender — doubled down Friday in defending transporting the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, saying they were all intending to go to Florida. He said state officials has “had people in Texas for months” trying to figure out how migrants are reaching his state after crossing the border and how they might intercept them and divert them. He said it is difficult to find newcomers once they leave the large groups crossing the border and switch to traveling in cars or buses.

“Most of them are intending to come to Florida,” DeSantis said, adding, “Our view is you have to deal with it at the source.”

Let’s unpack this. Florida’s governor could’ve apprehended migrants in Florida — a state with a large population from Venezuela and other Latin American countries — but he didn’t. Instead, DeSantis, according to his own version of events, dispatched investigators to Texas — presumably with public funds — where they worked “for months.”

Evidently, they found migrants who were “intending to come to Florida.” In other words, the Republican and his team lured migrants onto an airplane and flew them to Martha’s Vineyard because they were thinking about traveling to the Sunshine State.

Sure, these desperate people didn’t have the resources to travel from Texas to Florida, but DeSantis apparently has a sense of what was on their minds, so he and his administration arranged for special charter flights to a lovely town in Massachusetts.

Remember, this is supposed to be the defense. DeSantis said this on Friday, two days after executing the exploitative stunt, suggesting he had some time to figure out what he wanted to tell journalists, and this is what he came up with.

Meanwhile, DeSantis’ lieutenant governor, Jeanette Nunez, said it’s “categorically false“ that the migrants were misled. (She also referred to the people on the flights as “illegal immigrants,” despite the fact that they were asylum seekers who’d been processed by the Department of Homeland Security.)

It’s certainly possible the Florida Republican was telling the truth, but many of these migrants have told the same story with the same details about a woman they identified as “Perla” who helped lure them onto airplanes with brazen lies about their destination and the benefits that awaited them upon their arrival.

The number of unanswered questions seems to be getting longer, not shorter. Who are the investigators DeSantis deployed to Texas? How much were they paid? Why did it take them “months” to do their work?

Did the GOP governor contract with Ultimate Air Shuttle? For how much? Is DeSantis’ office prepared to share that contract with the public?

We have some sense of what “Perla” looks like — by all accounts, she’s a tall, blonde woman with light complexion — but who did she work for? How much was she paid? By whom? Is this a copy of the brochure she helped distribute?

Neither DeSantis nor his office has been eager to present much in the way of details, which is understandable given that the Republican administration’s stunt may not have been entirely legal. But the silent treatment won’t make this mess go away.