Florida Judge Rejects DeSantis Administration’s Bid to Toss Lawsuit Over Migrant Flights

'I think we need to just hear out these issues,' the judge said

After being flown in from Texas on a flight funded by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, illegal immigrants gather at Edgartown in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., on Sept. 15, 2022. (Vineyard Gazette/Handout via Reuters)

By Patricia Tolson
January 18, 2023Updated: January 18, 2023
0:005:53 Audio available

A Florida judge has ruled that a legal challenge to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ program to fly illegal immigrants to other states will go to trial.
On Jan. 13, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Democrat state Sen. Jason Pizzo against DeSantis and two individuals with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Pizzo is suing in his capacity as a private citizen.

Cooper set the trial date for Jan. 30.
“I think we need to just hear out these issues,” Cooper said following arguments on Jan. 13, the Florida Phoenix reported.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the governor’s move to fly illegal aliens from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
As previously reported by The Epoch Times, DeSantis followed through with his promise to send illegal immigrants to Democrat-controlled cities on Sept. 15, 2022, by flying two planes of illegal immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard as part of his “relocation program.”

About 50 Venezuelans who recently crossed the U.S. border illegally are at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Massachusetts on Sept. 14, 2022, after being flown there by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette/Handout via Reuters)DeSantis’ communications director Taryn Fenske told media outlets that “states like Massachusetts, New York, and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden administration’s open border policies.”
The Epoch Times also reported in December 2021 that DeSantis allocated $8 million in his 2022–2023 Freedom First Budget, which would be used to transport illegal aliens sent to Florida to other states.
The governor’s relocation program was funded by Florida’s 2021–2022 budget, which allocated $12 million to implement “a program to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law.” Funds not spent in the fiscal year 2021–2022 rolled over to 2022–2023 to be used for the same purpose.
“The Legislature gave me $12 million,” DeSantis said at a news conference on Sept. 13, 2022. “We’re going to spend every penny of that to make sure that we’re protecting the people of the state of Florida.”
The Legal Challenge

In September, Pizzo filed an emergency complaint for declaration and injunctive relief in the state’s 2nd Judicial Circuit in Leon County, Florida (pdf). The case—in which Pizzo asserts standing as a “citizen and taxpayer of the State of Florida”—names FDOT Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, FDOT Secretary Jared Perdue, and DeSantis as defendants.
Pizzo alleges a number of legal violations by DeSantis, including that the governor implemented his airlift through language in the annual state budget bill instead of through substantive law, which the Florida Constitution forbids.
The complaint asserts that the Florida Constitution provides that “[n]o money shall be drawn from the treasury except in pursuance of appropriation made by law.”
Pizzo contends that using state funds to transport illegal aliens into and out of Florida violates state law.
Pizzo also accused Patronis of improperly signing $1.5 million in checks to Florida-based Vertol Systems, which specializes in helicopter and aircraft solutions, to fly nearly 50 illegal immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, with a stopover in Florida in September. The judge dismissed this part of the complaint.
Identifying ‘Ms. Perla’

In a Sept. 16 letter to Perdue, shared on social media, Florida Democrat Senate Leader Lauren Book asserted that many of the illegal immigrants transported from Texas “were not ‘unauthorized aliens’ but asylum-seekers.” In addition, she claimed “it is a requisite condition for the use of appropriated funds” that FDOT must first develop and “implement a program to facilitate the transportation of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with Federal Law.”
Book also asserted that the illegal immigrants were transported from Texas “under the pretense of being provided expedited work permits, by a Ms. ‘Perla.'”
Book wrote that she wanted to know the date and language of the program that was established pursuant to HB 5001, the authority or legal opinion used to allow state funds to be used in the transport of illegal aliens from Texas, clarification as to whether the unknown “Ms. Perla” was an FDOT employee, and whether FDOT provided a videographer for the flights.
Chapter 908

While Pizzo contends “the expenditure of funds appropriated by the legislature to transport aliens” from San Antonio, through Florida and on to Martha’s Vineyard “is contrary” to Section 908.111, Nick Meros, deputy general counsel in the executive office of the governor, argued that Chapter 908, Federal Immigration Enforcement, allowed the flights of illegal immigrants.
While the law states that “a governmental entity may not execute, amend, or renew a contract with a common carrier or contracted carrier if the carrier is willfully providing any service in furtherance of transporting a person into the State of Florida knowing that the person is an unauthorized alien,” it also says “except to facilitate the detention, removal, or departure of the person from this state or the United States.”
Allen Zhong contributed to this story.

Florida Judge Rejects DeSantis Administration’s Bid to Toss Lawsuit Over Migrant Flights (theepochtimes.com)