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Lawsuit says DeSantis' migrant relocation is unconstitutional

The Southern Poverty Law Center has sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for using Coronavirus recovery money to relocate migrant asylum seekers. The suit asserts the relocation is unconstitutional because it infringes upon the federal government's immigration system. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
The Southern Poverty Law Center has sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for using Coronavirus recovery money to relocate migrant asylum seekers. The suit asserts the relocation is unconstitutional because it infringes upon the federal government's immigration system. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a federal lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron Desantis alleging that sending migrants seeking asylum to other states is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit asserts that DeSantis' action violates the Constitution's Supremacy Clause by "usurping the federal government's sole role in regulating and enforcing immigration law" in addition to the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, "through its state-sponsored harassment of immigrants based on race, color, and national origin."

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"This case is about the executive of one state infringing upon the federal government's immigration system by creating a separate, parallel immigration system," the lawsuit states.

SPLC senior supervising attorney Paul R. Chavez in a statement that the Constitution clearly expresses that "the sole and exclusive power to regulate immigration policy is granted to the federal government, not the states."

RELATED D.C. attorney general opens probe into relocation of migrants

"The scheme by Gov. DeSantis and the State of Florida to use taxpayer funds for the "relocation" of "unauthorized aliens" is a blatant and unlawful attempt to harass immigrants at the state level. Florida's relocation program constitutes a discriminatory attack on immigrant communities and Gov. DeSantis' unconstitutional actions must be stopped," said Chavez.

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The suit also names Jared W. Perdue, Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation, in his official capacity as a defendant in the lawsuit.

In September DeSantis flew migrants from Florida to Martha's Vineyard without any warning or notice that they were coming.

RELATED Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard sue Florida for violating their rights

A lawsuit was filed in September by Lawyers For Civil Rights that accused DeSantis of violating the migrant's civil rights by manipulating them with false promises and misrepresentations to get them to leave Florida.

The SPLC is being assisted in the new lawsuit by the Criminal Justice Institute of Harvard Law School and Leontire & Associates, P.C.

The plaintiffs in the suit are the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Americans for Immigrant Justice and Hope CommUnity Center. The suit alleges these groups have been harmed because they were forced to divert significant and scarce resources from their core missions to respond the migrant relocation program.

The suit challenges Section 185 of Florida's 2022 General Appropriations Act. The SPLC said that section of law creates an incoherent definition of "unauthorized alien" that's inconsistent with federal immigration laws.

DeSantis signed a budget that appropriated $12 million in funds from the federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund to the state department of transportation to pay for the relocation of the migrants.

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