The Treasury Department acknowledged that it will be investigating Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s use of federal funds to transport Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, last month.
Legal challenges to DeSantis’s actions — including a lawsuit from the migrants themselves alleging that the governor and others caused “economic, emotional and constitutional harms” to them and their families — have already been brought forward. A sheriff in Texas has also opened an investigation into the matter.
But the action by the Treasury Department marks the first time that a federal agency or department has announced that DeSantis’s political stunt is being scrutinized.
Responding to correspondence from Massachusetts Democratic lawmakers demanding an investigation, Treasury Department Deputy Inspector General Richard Delmar wrote that an inquiry would be opened “as quickly as possible.”
Those lawmakers had questioned whether DeSantis and other Florida lawmakers had improperly used federal funds given to the state, intended to help with COVID-19 recovery efforts, to fly the migrants out of Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. The department said it would audit the state’s spending.
“As part of its oversight responsibilities for the [State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund], TIG [the Treasury Office of Inspector General] has audit work planned on recipients’ compliance with eligible use guidance,” Delmar said in his letter.
“We have already sought information from Florida about appropriate use” of monies from the coronavirus relief fund that was laid out in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Delmar added.
According to reporting from Politico, DeSantis didn’t use funding from the federal government directly to pay for the flights. Rather, the funds were derived from interest earned from COVID-19 relief. The Treasury Department inspector general’s office will determine whether that type of funding violates federal law.
Roughly 50 Venezuelan migrants, inside the U.S. legally, were flown last month from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. They were not told they were going there, but rather to Boston, and were promised food, shelter and job security once they landed — promises that were lies, they soon discovered, upon arrival. Residents at Martha’s Vineyard were quick to provide care for the migrants, offering them food and shelter, until a more permanent solution for their needs could be found.
A group of those migrants has filed a lawsuit against DeSantis, stating that he “manipulated” them, stripping them “of their dignity,” and “deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection [rights] under law.”