Attorneys for a group of migrants who boarded unannounced flights to Martha’s Vineyard from San Antonio, Texas have filed a federal class action lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantiswho allegedly directed a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to transport a group of 50 people, including families with small children, as part of a political stunt.
The lawsuit alleges the governor and members of his administration targeted immigrants who were recently released from shelters with false promises of job opportunities, education and financial assistance before they landed on the island with only volunteered support from local groups and emergency assistance from state agencies.
Attorneys allege that the migrants were exploited for “political purposes” after arriving on the island last week.
“No human being should be used as a political pawn in the nation’s highly polarized debate over immigration,” Lawyers for Civil Rights executive director Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal said in a statement.
The lawsuit details how three Venezeulan migrants and their families named in the lawsuit – including a woman with an 11-year-old son – were “rounded up” and promised benefits before boarding flights.
It also details their harrowing journeys from Venezuela, where they fled unrest, crime and threats of violence in the wake economic and political collapse in that country, followed by their surrender to US authorities at the US-Mexico border, subsequent detentions and release and emotional damages and anxiety after realizing they were defrauded while photographs of them circulated across international media.
After plaintiffs were released and staying in local shelters, despite following proper channels for legal immigration, defendants “manipulated them, stripped them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process and equal protection under the law,” according to the lawsuits.
The lawsuit also includes two unnamed defenders who “targeted” many of the people who boarded the