Clues

DeSantis's public comments offer some helpful clues about who is actually behind those flights to Martha's Vineyard.
OCALA, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2022/05/06: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis reacts at a press conference at Sam’s Club in Ocala, where he signed into law more than $1.2 billion in tax relief for Floridians, the la... OCALA, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2022/05/06: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis reacts at a press conference at Sam’s Club in Ocala, where he signed into law more than $1.2 billion in tax relief for Floridians, the largest tax relief package in Florida’s history. In an effort to combat inflation, taxes will be eliminated for varying periods of time on goods including fuel, children’s books, diapers, and home improvement items. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) MORE LESS

I’ve said a few times that the consistent testimony of all those Venezuelan migrants describes an operation that is simply not a government operation, not an operation managed by government employees: people with business cards with only a first name, fabricated government brochures, contract quotas, all the rest. Governments and government workers can act with horrible callousness and brutality. But they do so in certain formal and bureaucratic ways. These were clearly not government employees. And on this there are actually some clues in DeSantis’ public statements.

As we’ve noted, one of the abiding mysteries is the most obvious one: why was Florida transporting migrants from Texas to Massachusetts? When pressed on this point DeSantis has argued that he’s simply being proactive, preempting migrants who might go to Florida while they’re still in Texas. Let’s set aside for the moment whether that actually makes any sense. Let’s focus on this comment from Friday because his explaining has some clues about who ran this operation.

“So they’ve been in Texas, identifying people that are trying to come to Florida, and then offering them free transportation to sanctuary jurisdictions … We have people on the ground (in Texas) — and it’s pretty consistent: about 40% mentioned Florida — and so what we’re trying to do is profile who do you think is going to try to get to Florida. So that’s how you’re doing it. They’re not told that they’re going to stay in Florida. They’re told that their ultimate destination, in this case, was what was up in Massachusetts and with Martha’s Vineyard.”

So, according to DeSantis, Florida has “people” in Texas who are essentially polling migrants to see the percentage who want to come to Florida. Who are these “people”? DeSantis has refused to say. Based on their investigations, DeSantis’ “people” are then profiling migrants to decide who is likely to try to get to Florida and then jump in to offer them transportation to other places. Who? How many? Are these state employees? Where does the money for this come from?

During the same event, when asked about whether the migrants were deceived, DeSantis dropped another clue: “The folks that are contracted, not only do they give him a release form to sign, they actually give them a packet, and in that packet included a map of Martha’s Vineyard.”

Now we’re getting somewhere: “The folks that are contracted.” So they’re not government employees. The Florida legislature appropriated $12 million for transporting migrants out of Florida to blue states and cities. The appropriation said explicitly that it had to be removing immigrants from Florida — not from Texas. If you go by DeSantis’s statements his administration has contracted with private individuals, an organization or organizations in Texas to survey and surveil what we might call Florida-curious migrants in Texas. They are then paid to coax them on to planes destined to places like Martha’s Vineyard. This is almost certainly where “Perla” comes from. According to DeSantis, the state of Florida contracted with her or her organization to do this work in Texas. A private individual? A political organization? Who knows? But that’s certainly worth finding out.

DeSantis’s eventual defense might be that he or the state of Florida didn’t tell these contractors to lie to the immigrants or prepare fabricated government brochures. They did that on their own. And that’s actually quite possible. But that’s the kind of thing that happens when you hire randos or anti-immigration activists to fill migrant quotas for plane flights.

Now let’s look at a different point.

The fact that the state of Florida is doing this work in Texas strongly suggests that this is not so much Florida hiring contractors to do work for the state of Florida as funding people who were perhaps already doing it or interested in doing it.

Why do I say this? Consider this.

The idea that Florida is trying to interdict Florida-curious migrants while they’re in Texas is absurd on its face. These transports are not meant to meaningfully reduce the number of asylum-seeking migrants in a particular state. A million migrants have been allowed into the country while awaiting asylum hearings since January 2021. If you’re chartering two jets to take 40 at a time to Massachusetts you’re going to be chartering quite a few jets before you make a dent in that number. This is true even for states like Texas which have been busing migrants at scale. The governors in question have actually been pretty clear about this. The buses and plans are meant to illustrate the migration pressure on border states and put pressure onto President Biden. Since that’s the aim, the idea you’d be hunting for Florida-curious migrants in Texas to ship them off before they go to Florida doesn’t really add up. Can it really be true that there aren’t a few dozen migrants in Florida waiting on asylum hearings?

Again, none of that makes sense. And that’s a clue.

Late Update: To follow up in the points above, DeSantis appeared last night on Hannity and referred to “the vendor that is doing this for Florida.”

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