Advocates Decry Attempts to Investigate DeSantis’ Illegal Immigrant Flights

Advocates Decry Attempts to Investigate DeSantis’ Illegal Immigrant Flights
Illegal immigrants gather, after being flown in from Texas on a flight funded by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, at Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., on Sept. 15, 2022. (Vineyard Gazette/Handout via Reuters)
John Ransom
News Analysis

Conservative advocates and observers are calling out Democrat attempts to criminally investigate the immigration policies that Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is following by transporting migrants to so-called sanctuary cities.

A week ago, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, a Texas Democrat, opened up a criminal investigation after DeSantis chartered two flights taking illegal immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, the island haven off the coast of Massachusetts, which bills itself as a “sanctuary destination” for illegal immigrants.

Sanctuary cities pledge to support illegal immigrant communities, and limit or refuse to cooperate with law enforcement officials in removing illegal immigrants from the country.

Later California’s Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom, a rumored rival of DeSantis for the presidential election in 2024 along with Biden, called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to open a criminal investigation into DeSantis over the incident.
“I’m formally requesting the DOJ begin an immediate investigation into these inhumane efforts to use kids as political pawns,” Newsom said in a tweet, which included the referral letter he sent to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The House Homeland Security Committee also wrote to the DOJ and Department of Homeland Security requesting they open investigations into the flights.

One big DeSantis booster, who lost her 21-year-old son to an auto accident with an illegal immigrant in 2007, Kiyan Michael, is troubled by the implications for the country.

“Why don’t we investigate what we need to be investigating like why our borders are wide open?” Michael told The Epoch Times.

Michael noted that DeSantis swore an oath to protect the citizens of Florida and keep them safe, as did the officials in Texas.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Unite and Win Rally in support of Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano at the Wyndham Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Aug. 19, 2022. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Unite and Win Rally in support of Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano at the Wyndham Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Aug. 19, 2022. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The Human Cost of Illegal Immigration

For those who think what happens in Texas doesn’t impact the people of Florida, Michael has a simple question for Sheriff Salazar who is investigating DeSantis.

“My child was killed by somebody who came through the southern border, probably. Why was that allowed to happen? What answer does the sheriff have for that?” added Michael, who said she found the investigation into DeSantis’ actions hypocritical from a sheriff who swore to uphold the law and protect the people of Texas while ignoring the people pouring across the border illegally.

Salazar has previously said that his county isn’t a “sanctuary city,” adding that he also didn’t have the resources to enforce federal immigration law.

“We’re not equipped manpower wise or training wise or liability wise to be immigration officers at present,” Salazar said in 2017.

A spokesperson for Bexar County Sherrif’s Office told The Epoch Times that the office “is not investigating Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but rather conducting an investigation into migrants who were alleged to have been lured away from the migrant resource center in San Antonio, [Texas], under false pretenses.”

The spokesperson added the office didn’t have an update on the investigation.

“The investigation is ongoing as our investigators are working to obtain statements from the migrants who were flown from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard,” the spokesperson said in an email. “Once our investigators have concluded their interviews and investigation for this incident, we will provide an update publicly.”

As a reaction to her own loss, Michael is running as a Republican for Florida’s State House in District 16, which represents Jacksonville.

Last week she put out a campaign advertisement for DeSantis’ gubernatorial reelection bid in the Sunshine State talking about the death of her son, Brandon, whose car was hit by an illegal immigrant so hard that it flipped, according to her account in the ad.

Higher Road Fatalities

Illegal immigration left unchecked causes bad things to happen to good people, Michael said, adding that what happened to her son when he was killed in a traffic accident with a person residing in the country illegally, isn’t that uncommon.
“In the ten states with the highest concentration of illegal immigrants, (according to FAIR’s most recent estimates: California, Texas, New York, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey and Colorado) 14.6 percent of driving fatalities are caused by an unlicensed or improperly licensed driver,” said the advocacy group, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), noting that this represents a 7 percent increase over the nationwide average.
FAIR contends that the growing percentage of incidents involving hit-and-run fatalities in the United States, which grew 34 percent between 2006 and 2016, is a consequence of illegal immigration.
The group said this is in part because in Mexico it is not illegal to leave the scene of an accident, as it is in the United States.

The Process is Punishment

One prominent attorney, who represents conservative clients at the highest level, warned that the tactic of criminalizing actions of political figures is likely to be effective even if the criminal charges don’t stick.

“Because in all of these cases, the process is the punishment,” attorney Robert Costello, who represents Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon in cases investigated by the DOJ told The Epoch Times.

“You do not have to indict anybody; you don’t have to charge them with a crime: All you have to do is investigate them for a crime,” Costello added, while noting that in addition to allowing political opponents to say the target is under criminal investigation, the tactic has the added benefit in destroying the target’s bank accounts.

“You may know that hiring counsel is pretty expensive in situations like this,” he added.

Biden Administration is Flying Illegal Immigrants Too

Rosemary Jenks, a public policy attorney specializing in illegal immigration with advocacy group NumbersUSA, noted that the very policy that Democrats are condemning in DeSantis of flying illegal immigrants around the country is the same policy used by the Biden administration, which has been flying illegal immigrants into cities around the country for the last two years, a move which also occurred under President Donald Trump.

“So ... the only way this works is if the Biden administration is charged too,” Jenks told the Epoch Times.

Jenks alleged that the failure of Biden’s border policies is causing Democrats to panic and search for an attention-grabbing method by which they can change the subject.

“There’s no question that the Democrats are desperately trying to avoid acknowledging that by their own policies they have created this border chaos,” he said.

Costello, the attorney for Giuliani and Bannon echoed the sentiment from Jenks.

“The hypocrisy is manifest because Joe Biden has been doing exactly the same thing. I live in New York and he’s been flying in planes of people who have illegally crossed over the borders to White Plains airport, and they’ve caught him on videotape,” Costello told The Epoch Times, citing media reports of secretly recorded video of the arrival of a flight.

According to Costello, there is an important difference between what DeSantis is doing and what Biden is doing.

On the one hand, Biden is attempting to hide the extent of illegal immigration in America.

On the other hand, “the whole purpose of what Florida Gov. DeSantis was doing was to bring to the attention of the so-called liberal population who says we should welcome everybody even though they are illegal aliens and haven’t been vetted for anything” and let them get a taste of what citizens on the southern border are dealing with, said Costello.

“Yet, when they’re on somebody else’s doorstep, it’s different than when they’re on your doorstep. And boy did it change things in Martha’s Vineyard. Those [illegal immigrants] were there less than 24 hours, and they got the National Guard to escort them to an Army or an Air Force Base,” he added.

To Michael, the most important difference between Biden and DeSantis on this issue is that DeSantis is trying to prevent the harm associated with illegal immigration.

In contrast, that Biden’s policies are making matters worse because he won’t “enforce the laws that we already have.”

“How is DeSantis the criminal here?” Michael said.

“No parent should have to go through what we’ve been through,” she concluded.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the White House for comment.