Asserting that they engaged in a “scheme to defraud vulnerable immigrants to advance a political motive,” a group of migrants filed a federal class action lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state representatives when they chartered planes to fly them from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last week.
The lawsuit, which was submitted on Tuesday in the US District Court of Massachusetts, claims that the defendants and their unnamed accomplices “designed and executed a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme centered on exploiting this vulnerability for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial, and political interests.”
In the case, Yanet and her family, Pablo, and Jesus—all identified by the last name alias “Doe”—are described as having fled a humanitarian disaster in Venezuela, only to have “the defendants utilize them as pawns in a political charade.” Additionally included as a plaintiff is the network of migrant-led groups known as Alianza Americas.
DeSantis and others are charged with violating the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against wrongful seizure, false arrest, and other rights in the case. They claim DeSantis and others participated in a conspiracy to strip them of their civil rights, committed fraud, purposefully caused them mental pain, and wrongfully imprisoned them.
Jared Perdue, Florida’s secretary of transportation, as well as his agency and the state of Florida are all included in the complaint, which was brought by Lawyers for Civil Rights.
The lawsuit makes public information regarding the migrants’ journey, including what transpired in the days preceding the flight, that had not previously been made public.
At least five persons waited outside of shelters in Texas, one of whom used the name “Perla,” and another who gave the name “Emanuel,” and gave migrants $10 gift cards to let them know about the trip while “pretending to be good Samaritans delivering humanitarian help.” The complaint claims that those responsible for luring the migrants away promised them work, housing, educational opportunities, and other benefits in exchange for flying to other states.
They were given free hotel accommodations in Texas after agreeing. The arrangement “sequestered” the migrants away “from the chance of true good Samaritans finding out how the class members were being exploited,” according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ letter.
Migrants said they received official-looking immigration paperwork and were misinformed that they were traveling to Boston or Washington, DC.
However, on the day of the trip, September 14, 2022, the migrants learned that they were headed to the island of Martha’s Vineyard just before arrival. According to the lawsuit, they were left in the dark on the tarmac with no way to contact the persons who had previously made arrangements for their journey.
The complaint claims that these immigrants, who are pursuing legal immigration status in the United States through the correct processes, “experienced brutality equal to what they escaped in their native country.” In order to further an illegal objective and a personal political agenda, the defendants “manipulated them, stripped them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under the law, and impermissibly interfered with the Federal Government’s exclusive control over immigration.”
The plaintiffs stated that the economic, psychological, and constitutional impairments are at least $75,000 but did not specify the amount of damages they are seeking.