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A Florida state lawmaker is suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials for orchestrating the transportation of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
State Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat who represents the Miami-Dade area, claims in a new lawsuit that relocating migrants from another state using Florida funds is an illegitimate use of those funds and violates Florida laws. The lawsuit also requests a judge to stop such relocations.
"This is very clear and straightforward," Pizzo said during an interview, the Miami Herald reported. "The governor had legislators carry and pass bills that were designed to suit his agenda and that he subsequently signed into law. And even with that completely privileged position, he still can’t comply with the law. He set the rules for the game and then he can’t follow them."
Immigrants gather with their belongings outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Wednesday Sept. 14, 2022, in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard. (Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette via AP))
The Florida legislature previously approved $12 million in the state’s transportation budget to relocating migrants who had entered Florida illegally. However, in the lawsuit, Pizzo, an attorney, argues DeSantis is not using those funds in the manner they were appropriated because he moved migrants who are not "unauthorized aliens" and who were not originally in Florida.
The two planes of 48 Venezuelan migrants were flown from San Antonio to the ritzy Massachusetts island and only briefly landed in Florida.
Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director, dismissed the new 15-page lawsuit and said Pizzo was simply seeking his "15 minutes of fame."
"Senator Pizzo never misses an opportunity for his 15 minutes of fame and is challenging an action on an appropriation he voted for," Fenske told the outlet.
The lawsuit also names Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, the Florida Department of Transportation and Jared Perdue, the department’s secretary.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responded Tuesday to critics of him flying migrants to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. (WTVT)
In a statement to the paper, Patronis noted Pizzo voted to pass the initial $12 million appropriation bill and said DeSantis’ office was operating in compliance with it.
Devin Galletta, communications director for the Florida Department of Financial Services, echoed this statement and also said his office was exploring options for a countersuit.
"Senator Pizzo, along with Minority Leader Lauren Book, voted for the $12 million appropriation to relocate migrants," Galletta wrote. "Now that the law that they voted for is being implemented, and shedding light on the border crisis, Pizzo and Book have gone to their same old handbook, and hired a Democratic operative attorney to go after the executive branch for following the law. We are in receipt of the filing and we are currently exploring options for sanction and/or countersuit measures."
Senator Jason Pizzo at a campaign event. (Senator Jason Pizzo/Facebook)
The lawsuit comes after Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the illegal immigrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard.
The lawsuit alleges that DeSantis "designed and executed a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme centered on exploiting this vulnerability for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial and political interests."
Gov. DeSantis’ spokesperson Taryn Fenske described the class action lawsuit as "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," Fenske said.
She added: "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."
Some Democratic officials have also urged the federal government to investigate the transportation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.