Oct 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Florida open-government group sues DeSantis over migrant flight records

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks in a neighborhood impacted by Hurricane Ian at Fisherman's Wharf in Fort Myers, Florida, on October 5.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference in Fort Myers earlier this month. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A Florida open-government group filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to compel state Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration to release records about migrant flights from Texas to Martha's Vineyard.

The big picture: This is the third lawsuit brought against DeSantis' office in connection with the two charter flights of some 50 Venezuelan migrants to the Massachusetts island last month.

Driving the news: The Florida Center for Government Accountability's (FLCGA) lawsuit, filed in Leon County Circuit Court, alleges the governor's office did not comply with requests to release details, including flight records, and that it's withholding information on the matter.

  • DeSantis' administration released some details on the flights last Friday, but the group said it was not "responsive" to some requests.

Details: The FLCGA is seeking communications records involving DeSantis' chief of staff James Uthmeier, details about the flights, waivers signed by the undocumented migrants on the flights and any information on exchanges with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's office about relocating migrants.

What they're saying: "Defendants' refusal to provide the records is unreasonable, unjustified and amounts to an unlawful delay and refusal to provide the records," the lawsuit argues.

Zoom in: The governor's office states in an email included in the lawsuit that the information released Friday is the "first production" of records.

  • The governor's office "has been working to retrieve, review and produce documents responsive to the many public records requests we have received regarding the flights to Martha’s Vineyard," according to the email.
  • "In an effort to produce documents more efficiently, this office is retrieving, reviewing and producing any documents related to the aforementioned flights."

Background: Two other lawsuits have been filed over the matter. State Sen. Jason Pizzo (D) sued DeSantis and other state officials last month, alleging the migrant flights violated Florida's program because the migrants were not in the country illegally and their flight did not originate in the state.

  • The undocumented migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard filed a class action lawsuit against DeSantis and other Florida officials in September.

The other side: DeSantis has defended his actions on the migrant flights, claiming at a news conference last month: "Most of them are intending to come to Florida."

  • Representatives for DeSantis did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.
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