Florida immigrant group hits DeSantis over migrant flights

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A Florida immigrant-centric political advocacy group is launching an ad campaign attacking GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis over his administration’s treatment of migrants.

Florida Immigrant Coalition Votes is spending six figures on two bilingual digital ads. One hits DeSantis for chartering planes to fly migrants from Texas to sanctuary jurisdictions, and the other criticizes the Florida governor for reducing temporary care for unaccompanied migrant children.

Both ads are set to run in Central and South Florida on YouTube, targeting the large immigrant and Latino communities in those areas.

The first ad, titled “Deceived,” touches on three key points of the migrant flights: that a majority of the migrants flown by Florida were Venezuelans who legally applied for asylum, allegations that the migrants were deceived to board the flights, and that Florida used taxpayer money to execute the plan.

While many asylum-seekers fail to get prior authorization before they cross the border or present themselves at ports of entry — both of which are violations of U.S. law — their stay in the United States is authorized once they pass an initial screening.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis is under fire for luring immigrant children and families and relocating them from the Texas border to Martha’s Vineyard,” says the ad’s narrator.

“These families had legally applied for asylum at the border, many of whom had fled the Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela,” she adds.

DeSantis’s dramatic entry into the border debate, flying Venezuelans from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., scored him points with base Republicans, who say the Biden administration’s application of federal asylum law amounts to “open borders.”

But it’s still unclear how Latino voters in Florida, particularly those with links to immigrants who’ve fled authoritarian governments like Venezuela’s, will respond to the policy.

DeSantis’s office did not return a request for comment on this story.

A national poll conducted by Civiqs for the Immigration Hub found that 63 percent of all Americans say people who flee authoritarian or communist countries should be allowed to request protection in the United States.

In the poll, 86 percent of Democrats agreed with that idea, as did 57 percent of independents and 41 percent of Republicans.

The poll also found that 65 percent of Hispanic voters say the migrant relocations by Florida and Texas are “political stunts.”

And immigrant advocacy groups say GOP border and immigration policies, including the flights, are more performative than substantial.

The second ad, titled “Valores” — or “Values” — features Venezuelan American Norah Lossada, who’s written about her experience fleeing Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela.

Lossada addresses the change in temporary care rules, which advocates say will cause families to remain separated for longer periods of time.

“Regarding Governor DeSantis’s decision to support and keep children separated from their families once they arrive in this country,” Lossada says. “I think it’s a completely incorrect decision.”

“I wouldn’t vote for DeSantis because he’s not a person that I think represents the values of the state of Florida,” she adds, in Spanish.

The ads come as DeSantis has held a relative political truce with some national Democrats, particularly President Biden, as both Florida and the federal government focus on reconstruction duties after Hurricane Ian.

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