OPINION: Martha’s Vineyard stunt shows what kind of president DeSantis would be

In illegally flying 48 migrants across the country, DeSantis shows that he’s willing to make sacrifices on behalf of his constituents for political clout. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/FLICKR

Over $615 thousand of Florida’s state budget was spent by Gov. Ron DeSantis in a Sept. 14 stunt where he flew 48 legal migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, according to the Tampa Bay Times

This is the latest in a series of PR stunts by DeSantis as the 2024 presidential nomination nears, and serves as an example to Floridians of how the governor is willing to surpass both the law and their well-being in the name of political clout.

In line with a series of made-for-Fox-News promotional stunts that saw no follow-through, like the Intellectual Diversity Study, the flights to Martha’s Vineyard achieved nothing other than landing DeSantis a few weeks of front-page headlines at the expense of some of America’s most vulnerable people.

“What we understand is a Venezuelan migrant was paid a bird-dog fee to recruit 50 migrants who were then lured — and I will use the word ‘lured’ under false pretenses — to staying in a hotel for a few days, then taken to an airplane where they were flown to Florida and then Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses of being offered jobs,” Texas Sheriff Javier Salazar said in a Sept. 19 Facebook Live conference. 

“For what we can gather, a little more than a photo op, a video op and then they were left there.”

The video opportunity was, of course, granted to Fox News, who apparently received exclusive footage from DeSantis’ staff of the migrants exiting the plane in Martha’s Vineyard.

Days after the story broke, DeSantis traveled to Olathe, Kansas on Sept. 22 to give a presidential-style speech at a rally for Kansas Gov. Derek Schmidt, according to Reuters.

“They were homeless. They were hungry. They were trying to get to places like Florida and others. They were given basically a lottery ticket to get to the wealthiest sanctuary,” Desantis said to laughter from the crowd.

“If you’re going to support open borders, then you should have to deal with the consequences.”

DeSantis’ message is clear — he is tough on border control and states that support immigration. If his actual policy is to be anything like his stunts, it will come at great cost for the American people, in a literal sense.

Hiring aviation team Vertol Systems to ship the 48 migrants cost the state $615 thousand and DeSantis’ legislature has repurposed $12 million meant for COVID-19 relief into a migrant relocation program, according to a 2022 budget that took effect July 1. 

This $12 million would work to relocate migrants to sanctuary cities, nearly all of which are located in liberal voter bases. If working at the current cost, the trip to Martha’s Vineyard cost $12,812 per person. Meaning, the $12 million would only work to relocate about 937 people.

There are about 1.2 million illegal immigrants in Florida today, as estimated by the Federation for American Immigration Reform. DeSantis’ $12 million could demonstrably change the lives of Florida citizens still struggling with the impact of the pandemic, but will instead be allocated to moving .0008% of the immigrant population this upcoming year.

In addition to being wildly transparent political theater, DeSantis’ stunt broke federal law. If Salazar is correct, and the migrants were lured to the flights under false pretenses, then he could face human trafficking charges, according to former federal prosecutor Bianca Ford.

One of the migrants shared a pamphlet given to them by DeSantis’ staff listing benefits they would receive after being transported to Massachusetts. The benefits listed, however, are awarded to refugees which they were not.

By misleading and illegally transporting migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in a cruel act of self-righteous vindication, DeSantis has shown exactly what kind of leader he is, and what kind of president he would be.

He acts out of his own campaigning self-interest at the expense of America’s most vulnerable and his constituents as a whole. He sees people as props in his own climb to power, and conservative Florida voters should consider whether he truly acts in their interests, or merely his own, when filling out the ballot this November.