The lawsuit alleges that Gov. DeSantis and other Florida officials promised the migrants jobs and assistance if they agreed to be blown to another state–only to leave them in Martha’s Vineyard without any resources whatsoever.
A civil rights law firm has filed a federal class action lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who recently flew some 50 undocumented immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
According to National Public Radio, Lawyers for Civil Rights and migrant-led nonprofit Alianza Americas filed the lawsuit on behalf of the “Vineyard migrants and all similarly situated people who are fraudulently induced to travel across state lines by DeSantis and the State of Florida.”
N.P.R. notes that the lawsuit names Gov. DeSantis, the State of Florida, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, and several others as defendants.
The migrants, adds N.P.R., were recently taken by plane from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard, with one stop in Florida.
The immigrants were not told where they were going, but were promised an opportunity to find jobs and make a better life.
However, local officials were not provided advance warning of the migrants’ arrival, forcing local communities to rally to provide food, shelter, and transportation services.
Speaking to National Public Radio, Alianza Americas Executive Director Oscar Chacon said that Gov. DeSantis is using immigrants to “advance a hate-filled agenda.”
“That is why we have taken the steps to legally challenge what we view as not only a morally reprehensible action, but what we believe is also illegal,” he said.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against Gov. DeSantis “inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation,” as well as compensatory damages “for the harm suffered by the migrants.”
Attorneys also allege that Gov. DeSantis inappropriately and illegally paid for the cross-country journey using money that “originated from the federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund and was therefore subject to its use restrictions.”
In their complaint, Alianza Americas and Lawyers for Civil Rights say that DeSantis and other, unidentified defendants sought to target migrants by “trolling streets” outside of a migrant shelter in San Antonio and other cities.
According to NBC News, the migrants were allegedly given McDonald’s gift certificates and free home stays, and told that they would be given jobs, housing, educational opportunities, and other assistance if they were willing to board planes to other states.
In total, DeSantis and his associates spent over $615,000 reserving charter planes and transporting the immigrants.
However, DeSantis and other officials allegedly told the migrants that they would be flown to Boston or Washington, D.C.—instead, they were dropped off at Martha’s Vineyard, without the promised assistance.
“Defendants manipulated them, stripped them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under law, and impermissibly interfered with the Federal Government’s exclusive control over immigration in furtherance of an unlawful goal and a personal political agenda,” wrote Lawyers for Civil Rights litigation director Oren Sellstrom.
Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for Gov. DeSantis, defended Florida’s actions, while conspicuously glossing over the lawsuit’s claims of deceit and misrepresentation.
“The transportation of the immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard was done on a voluntary basis,” Fenske said. “The immigrants were homeless, hungry, and abandoned — and these activists didn’t care about them then. Florida’s program gave them a fresh start in a sanctuary state, and these individuals opted to take advantage of chartered flights to Massachusetts.”