DeSantis, Florida officials sued by immigrant rights advocates for sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard


“This cowardly political stunt has put our customers at risk. Many laws have been brazenly violated to make headlines.

Mother and daughter migrants take in the view as their ferry departs Martha’s Vineyard Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. Migrants shipped to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida’s Republican Governor said Friday they were misled about the where they were being taken, prompting immigration lawyers to promise legal action as the refugees from Venezuela were temporarily moved to a federal military base. Matt Cosby/The New York Times

Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights said Wednesday it filed a class action lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, the state of Florida and other “accomplices” over the transporting a group of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month.

In a statement, the group said the migrant removal operation was “fraudulent and discriminatory”. The group was brought from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard with no shelter or resources in place, LCR said. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several affected migrants, including the group of about 50 Venezuelans flown to Massachusetts and Alianza Americas, a network of migrant-led organizations.

Shortly after the migrants arrived at Martha’s Vineyard on Sept. 14, DeSantis took credit for it in statements to Fox News. It is believed that the migrants were evacuated from San Antonio before their planes stopped in Florida and then headed to Massachusetts.

“For the Governor of Florida to cynically use recently arrived immigrants who have sought asylum in the United States to advance a hate-motivated agenda designed to create confusion and rejection throughout the country, is not only morally despicable , but totally contrary to the best traditions. humanitarian protection embraced by most Americans,” Oscar Chacòn, executive director of Alianza Americas, said in a statement.

In a statement, LCR alleged that migrants were specifically targeted and forced to cross state borders under false pretenses. DeSantis and others focused on migrants recently released from shelters, according to LCR, and were lured by false promises of job opportunities, education and immigration assistance.

The migrants would have believed they were heading to Massachusetts, but were unaware they would be dropped off at Martha’s Vineyard, where seasonal work is drying up and shelters lacked the capacity to house them long-term.

“This cowardly political stunt has put our customers at risk. Many laws have been brazenly violated to secure media headlines,” Oren Sellstrom, LCR’s director of litigation, said in a statement.

On Monday, a Texas sheriff announced he was opening a criminal investigation into actions taken by unnamed individuals in San Antonio who allegedly instigated migrants to be flown to Massachusetts.

“At this point, I’m not in a position to say for sure ‘this is the law they broke, whether it’s federal, state or local’, but what I can tell you is that it’s is wrong. From a human rights perspective, what was done to these people is wrong,” said Javier Salazar, Sheriff of Bexar County, Texas.


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