I-TEAM: Gov. DeSantis gets backlash from Hispanic leaders and political challenger Charlie Crist over transporting migrants

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Charlie Crist. (Associated Press)

On the heels of a federal lawsuit filed against Gov. Ron DeSantis, the State of Florida and other state officials over transporting 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard from Texas -- DeSantis’ challenger in the governor’s race - Charlie Crist - held a virtual meeting with leaders in the Hispanic community. They allege the migrants were misled before boarding the planes, which they say is a violation of the law.

“People working for the DeSantis administration wrote, printed and handed out fake pamphlets full of lies to trick them onto the plane. They were targeted with questions about whether they wanted to come to Florida,” Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said.

Crist says the migrants who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard were lured with a chance for a good job and a better life. He says the money from the Florida Department of Transportation – which now totals more than $1.5 million - could have been used to help teachers or first responders, calling the unannounced flights a failed political stunt.

On the heels of a federal lawsuit filed against Gov. Ron DeSantis, the state of Florida and other state officials over transporting 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard from Texas, DeSantis’ challenger in the governor’s race, Charlie Crist, held a virtual meeting with leaders in the Hispanic community.

RELATED: DeSantis stands ground on migrant flights as Texas sheriff opens investigation | Texas sheriff investigating flights to Martha’s Vineyard | I-TEAM: How much Florida paid to fly 48 migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard | DeSantis, Biden butt heads over Florida’s migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard | ‘It’s shameful’: Sparks fly after DeSantis sends planes of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

″They think this is good for them politically, but I think it’s a disaster for them for DeSantis really,” Crist said. “What he’s done is shown the crass nature of his character, his willingness to use, children, women and other people as pawns, is a political charade.”

″If this isn’t human trafficking, then I don’t know what is,” State Senator Annette Taddeo said. “When you are luring someone under false pretenses, thinking they are going somewhere they are not going.”

Taddeo – a Democrat now running for congress - says the migrants were told they were being flown to Boston, and says they were seeking asylum under international law, and they either had work authorization or could get it.

Massachusetts State Representative Carlos Gonzalez says the Governor is using the pain and suffering of the Latino community for his gain.

″This country was built by immigrants, and to take children of God when you believe in Christian values to be used a pawns is unfathomable, especially from our leadership coming from the top,” Gonzalez said.

In a lawsuit which seeks class action status in a Massachusetts federal court, lawyers for the plaintiffs allege the trip which DeSantis took credit for, violated constitution protections. Lawyers are also asking the court to block DeSantis and others named in the lawsuit from inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation.

″DeSantis said this in a press conference, that they would have better lives, the enticement to go somewhere falls squarely in the definition of trafficking,” Immigration Lawyer Elizabeth Ricci said.

In a televised interview last night – DeSantis asked where was the outrage previously, saying millions of people have come across the border illegally under the Biden administration, and also pointing to the 53 migrants who died after being locked up in a truck.

He said fentanyl deaths are at an all-time peak because the lethal drug is coming across the US Mexico Border.

DeSantis said all the migrants who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard signed consent forms --they were provided with a map of the island --along with contact information and phone numbers for eligible services.

When News4JAX asked the Governor’s office about accusations of fake pamphlets and lies to the migrants about going to Boston, the press secretary responded with: Any commentary arising from a campaign (and therefore political) is the purview of the DeSantis campaign for response. So, we have reached out to the DeSantis campaign and are waiting for a response.

Meantime, the Governor’s office provided us with a consent form for the Massachusetts flight. They also referred us to a story about the consent form Texas used for migrants bussed to Washington DC and New York.

Tuesday, the Governor’s office responded to the lawsuit that was filed. It reads: “It is opportunistic that activists would use illegal immigrants for political theater. If these activists spent even a fraction of this time and effort at the border, perhaps some accountability would be brought to the Biden Administration’s reckless border policies that entice illegal immigrants to make dangerous and often lethal journeys through Central America and put their lives in the hands of cartels and Coyotes.

The transportation of the immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard was done on a voluntary basis. The immigrants were homeless, hungry, and abandoned – and these activists didn’t care about them then. Florida’s program gave them a fresh start in a sanctuary state and these individuals opted to take advantage of chartered flights to Massachusetts. It was disappointing that Martha’s Vineyard called in the Massachusetts National Guard to bus them away from the island within 48 hours.”

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.