A group of Venezuelan migrants whom Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) lured away from Texas and relocated to Massachusetts last week filed a class-action lawsuit against the governor and others involved in the scheme Tuesday, saying the officials defrauded and inflicted them with “economic, emotional, and constitutional harms” as part of a reckless political stunt.
The lawsuit filed in a U.S. district court in Massachusetts was brought forth by three of the roughly 50 migrants. The court documents identify them as Yanet Doe, who boarded the plane with her husband, 11-year-old son and other family members; Pablo Doe, who was lured on board with his two brothers; and Jesus Doe.
“These immigrants, who are pursuing the proper channels for lawful immigration status in the United States, experienced cruelty akin to what they fled in their home country,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit accuses DeSantis of breaching the Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable seizures and 14th amendment protections against depriving people of their freedoms and due process of law, among several other violations.
“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,” it continues.
In addition to DeSantis, who claimed credit for relocating the migrants using state money, the lawsuit targets the state of Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation, the agency’s Secretary Jared Perdue and five unidentified people involved in getting the migrants to board planes.
The lawsuit reiterates many of the alleged details of the stunt that have emerged in recent days: Migrants, many of them from Venezuela, seeking legal asylum in the U.S. were lured away from a migrant resource center in Texas by hired scouts who offered food gift cards, free hotel rooms and the promise of receiving legal work papers if they boarded planes they were told were bound for Washington, D.C., and Boston.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit all said they were approached and lured into the journey by a woman who introduced herself as Perla.
In reality, the migrants were dropped off on Martha’s Vineyard ― a wealthy, isolated island in Massachusetts accessible only by plane or boat ― and provided none of the work, housing, education or immigration assistance the scouts had promised. No one on Martha’s Vineyard or in the state of Massachusetts expected their arrival.
“They were left in the dark, with nothing, on a tarmac on an island,” the lawsuit states.
Shortly before the planes landed, migrants on board said they received a brochure entitled “Massachusetts Refugee Benefits.” Though it looked official, the lawsuit claims the defendants manufactured those brochures and filled them with misleading information.
The migrants identified in the lawsuit all say they would never have agreed to board those planes if they knew the truth about their destination. The plaintiff identified as Yanet Doe said she was worried her family would be deported for missing their appointments with immigration judges after being stranded on Martha’s Vineyard.
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