A class action alleges Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fraudulently induced migrants into boarding planes headed for Martha’s Vineyard, where they were dropped off without food, water or shelter, or anyone even knowing that they were coming.
A Boston-based civil rights law firm has filed a proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of migrants who say they were unwittingly induced by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis into boarding chartered planes headed for Martha’s Vineyard, where they weredropped offwithout food, water or shelter, or anyone even knowing that they were coming.
The 35-page complaint, filed in Massachusetts federal court on September 20, alleges DeSantis and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue “impermissibly interfered” with the federal government’s exclusive control over immigration “in furtherance of an unlawful goal and a personal political agenda” by falsely promising about 50 Venezuelan migrants that they were flying to Boston or Washington, D.C., “which was completely false.”
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To gain the migrants’ trust and cooperation, the defendants provided them with items such as $10 McDonald’s gift certificates, the suit says, accusing DeSantis of “exploiting their most basic needs.” From there, the defendants made “false promises and false representations” that if the migrants were willing to get on airplanes to other states, they would receive “employment, housing, educational opportunities, and other like assistance upon their arrival,” the lawsuit states.
Next, the defendants put the plaintiffs and similarly situated immigrants up in hotels for free, away from the migrant center and “the possibility of actual good Samaritans finding out how the class members were being abused,” the lawsuit alleges. While on the plane, the migrants were each given “a shiny, red folder” that included “official-looking materials,” including a brochure titled “Massachusetts Refugee Benefits,” instructions on how to change an address with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and an AR-11 “Alien’s Change of Address Card,” the complaint says.
According to the case, the brochure “echoed the type of false representation that had been given orally,” including the promise that the migrants would be provided with basic necessities and assistance.
After flying the migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, DeSantis, Perdue and other officials “disappeared and did not answer alarmed calls from theclass members” who were looking to find out “what had gone wrong after they landed,” the lawsuit says.
According to the filing, nothing went wrong, and DeSantis’s scheme, executed earlier this month, “worked exactly as the Defendants intended.”
The lawsuit alleges the migrants involved in DeSantis’s pricey “political stunt” experienced cruelty “akin to what they fled in their home country” and were manipulated, stripped of their dignity, and deprived of “liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under law.”
Per the complaint, Florida and the state’s Department of Transportation came up with and paid $615,000 for the private planes.
The day after the migrants landed on Martha’s Vineyard, DeSantis “claimed credit for the ruse,” and the individuals’ plight “became front page news across the country,” the case states. The defendants never made arrangements for employment, housing, education opportunities or other assistance and did not so much as notify the local government that the migrants would be arriving, the suit states.
After the unexpected arrival of the migrants in Martha’s Vineyard, residents and volunteers in the communityrallied around the individuals by providing food, clothing, shelter and other donations, so much so that town officials posted on social media that they did not need any more help.
The transport of the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard and other immigrant-friendly destinations such as Washington, D.C. and New York is considered an escalation by Republicans in opposition to arise in illegal immigrationunder President Joe Biden.
Acriminal investigationhas since been opened by the sheriff of Bexar County, Texas, where San Antonio is located, into the defendants’ conduct.
The plaintiffs are described in the complaint as immigrants who recently fled from Venezuela, a country subject to aLevel 4 “do not travel” advisory. The suit says that after crossing the United States border, the plaintiffs “immediately surrendered themselves to federal immigration officials” and are currently engaged in federal proceedings to adjudicate their immigration status.
“Unless and until determined otherwise after the due process to which they are entitled, Plaintiffs are authorized by federal immigration officials to remain in the United States,” the lawsuit reads.
Among the plaintiffs is Alianza Americas, a Chicago-based transnational nonprofit focused on improving the quality of life for people in the United States-Mexico-Central America migration corridor and providing a wide range of programs and resources to immigrants and immigrant-serving communities. The lawsuit says Alianza Americas and its 53 member organizations have incurred “concrete and ongoing injuries” as a result of the defendants’ conduct, which has forced the nonprofit to shift its focus from regular activities to holding programs to educate immigrant-serving communities against the conduct of public officials who “are attempting to make a political point” and responding to the needs that arise out of such schemes.
The lawsuit looks to cover all immigrants who “have been, or will be in the future, induced by Defendants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation.”
A spokeswoman for DeSantis has called the plaintiffs’ complaint “political theater.”
The complaint can be found below.
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