A second group of Texas migrants have been left scrambling to find resources after allegedly being offered transportation by the Florida government. In what was set to be a repeat of last week’s potentially illegal stunt that left 50 migrants stranded in Martha’s Vineyard, asylum seekers who were told they would be flown to Delaware were held for days in a San Antonio motel before being told their flight was ultimately canceled, the Miami Herald reported on Wednesday.
Despite Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office claiming the media fell for “disinformation” about the flight’s existence, preparations for it were well under way before a last minute cancellation once again left migrants in dire straits, according to the Herald.
Migrants abandoned at la La Quinta motel near downtown San Antonio describe similar experiences to that of the migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard by DeSantis, namely in that they were approached outside the San Antonio Migrants Resource Center, where staff has urged caution about offers of transportation and jobs, by an unidentified women offering them spots on free flights and promising more resources and support in other communities.
The migrants who accepted the flights were reportedly held in the motel for several days while organizers recruited more passengers, and experience that echoes that of those take to Martha’s Vineyard. They were told the night before the scheduled flight that they were being sent to Delaware, until a last minute notice was given that the flight would not be taking place. In accepting the proposition from DeSantis’ operatives, many migrants had given up their place at the Migrant Resource Center, where shelter stays are limited to three days, and were now effectively homeless.
“She said there would be work,” migrant Pedro Escalona told the Herald. “She said that they would get us there and then there would be help.” Escalona indicated that he had an immigration hearing scheduled in October in Washington, D.C., and accepted the offer of a flight with a “last minute” destination hoping it would get him closer to D.C.
When the flight was ultimately canceled, a bus was brought to transport them back to the Migrant Resource Center, where it was unclear if returning residents would be granted shelter. Organizers of the flights did not notify the migrants the bus would be coming and were not clear about its destination, resulting in several migrants being left stranded at the motel.
The parallels between the experiences of the migrants left in San Antonio, and those who were transported to Martha’s Vineyard, reinforce how migrants are being used as pawns in an inhumane stunt by Florida Governor Ron Desantis.
“We were out in the street and they offered us the opportunity to sleep in a bed,” a migrant told the Herald. “ We thought they were offering to help us.”
Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ rapid response director, accused reporters who arrived in Delaware after media reports of the flight of falling for “disinformation,” however a source tells NBC News that the governor’s office intentionally kept statements and comments about the flight vague despite preparations taking place, refusing to confirm a destination “so technically the media, the Democrats, everyone got punked who decided to heed some s— on Twitter instead of waiting for confirmation from the governor’s office.”
The jet that had been chartered for the flight was allegedly redirected to Tennessee, then New Jersey, with no migrants on board. New reports indicate that the company chartering the flights on behalf of the Florida government, Vertol Systems, Inc., was paid $615,000 to fly nearly 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Additionally, public records indicate that Vertol Systems has donated exclusively to Republican politicians and candidates, including State Rep. Jay Trumbull Jr., who serves as the Florida state legislature’s appropriations committee chair and helped design the budget that allocated $12 million dollars for the relocation of migrants from Florida to other states.
DeSantis and the Florida government have encountered intense backlash and legal scrutiny over the practices implemented to convince the migrants to sign onto the flights. On Tuesday, Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of three migrants who were potentially fraudulently lured into traveling to Martha’s Vineyard. Bexar County, Texas, Sheriff Javier Salazar has launched a criminal probe into the tactics used to lure the migrants onto the flight, and lawmakers in Massachusetts and across the U.S. are calling for Department of Justice investigations into the scheme.
DeSantis would like to play off this “made you look” stunt as a ploy to troll the media, but the flight’s cancelation may also been the result of a governor balking in the face of a political and legal hellstorm after allegedly misleading migrants in order to transport them to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis may not have “punked” the media so much as played himself.