Lawyers representing asylum seekers who were allegedly “tricked” into going from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard on flights funded by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration said Wednesday they are seeking a nationwide injunction to block the governor from luring immigrants to travel across state lines.
DeSantis has taken credit for sending about 50 asylum seekers last week from San Antonio, Texas, to the liberal Massachusetts enclave, tapping into $12 million Florida lawmakers earmarked in the state budget to transport undocumented immigrants.
State records show the Florida Department of Transportation has paid Oregon-based Vertol Systems Company Inc., which has an operation in Destin, more than $1.5 million for “relocation of unauthorized aliens.”
The state agency paid the company $950,000 on Monday, in addition to a $615,000 payment on Sept. 8, the records show.
The relocation of the immigrants has drawn international attention. On Tuesday, lawyers representing some of the asylum seekers flown to Massachusetts filed a potential class-action lawsuit against DeSantis, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue and unidentified people who helped recruit the immigrants in Texas.
The legal challenge, filed by attorneys with the Massachusetts-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, seeks unspecified monetary damages and asks a judge to block the DeSantis administration from “inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation.”
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, told reporters Wednesday that his organization also requested anonymity for the immigrants because they have received “a barrage of hate messages and death threats” as they try to recover from daunting journeys to the U.S. and subsequent trauma from their relocation to the Northeast.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs on Wednesday granted the request to keep secret the names of plaintiffs identified as Yanet Doe, Pablo Doe and Jesus Doe.
The lawsuit is “the first of its kind in the nation,” Espinoza-Madrigal, a lawyer, said. The plaintiffs’ lawyers are representing “all similarly stranded migrants across the country who have been fraudulently induced” by DeSantis, he added.
“We understand that there are other people affected, which is why this was filed as a class action to stop DeSantis and Florida from doing this via plane or bus, in terms of tricking people, deceiving people, lying to people about where they’re going and what they will receive at the other end. That has got to stop,” Espinoza-Madrigal said.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants “made false promises and false representations” that the immigrants “would receive employment, housing, educational opportunities, and other like assistance” upon their arrival in Massachusetts.
In Texas, the immigrants were given items such as $10 McDonald’s gift cards and promised “free shoes” if they would agree to take the flights, with many of the people not understanding where they were going, according to the allegations. The immigrants were placed in a hotel for several days before boarding two charter planes on Sept. 14.
“We are dealing with an unprecedented situation. Never before have immigrants been endangered in this way,” Espinoza-Madrigal said during a video conference with reporters. “If the Martha’s Vineyard community wouldn’t have acted so quickly and embraced them and protected them, things could have turned out very differently. … We’re talking about a group of highly vulnerable immigrants.”
The lawsuit alleges the immigrants, who are mostly from Venezuela, were in the country legally while awaiting processing by federal authorities.
After arriving in Texas, the immigrants had surrendered themselves to federal officials, been “screened and processed” and were “under federal management” while awaiting supervision appointments, check-ins and hearings, according to Espinoza-Madrigal. Many of them had been granted what is known as “humanitarian parole,” which allows people to remain in the U.S. temporarily.
Recruiters for the flights gave the immigrants official-looking documents “placed in shiny red folders” that resembled “an informational or welcome package,” but included incorrect information about the immigration process, Espinoza-Madrigal said. Many of the immigrants were ineligible for the services and benefits outlined in the documents.
“All of this indicates a deliberate and intentional interference in ongoing immigration matters to sabotage and derail our clients from complying with federal immigration law, to sabotage and derail the orderly operation of the federal immigration system,” Espinoza-Madrigal said.
He told reporters that recruiters “deliberately targeted” migrants, who were asked to “show their papers,” based on their national origin and race. The migrants from Venezuela were trying to escape the socialist Maduro regime.
DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske issued a statement Tuesday night accusing “opportunistic” activists of using illegal immigrants as “political theater.”
“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.”
DeSantis, who is running for re-election this year and is widely viewed as a frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, earlier Tuesday also defended the decision to transport migrants to “sanctuary” communities and criticized federal immigration policies. The governor reiterated that he thinks President Joe Biden should reinstate policies used by former President Donald Trump, such as a requirement for asylum seekers to remain in Mexico.
“Short of that, if you believe in open borders, then it’s the sanctuary jurisdictions that should have to bear the brunt of the open borders,” DeSantis said during an appearance in Bradenton.
DeSantis’ aides did not respond to questions about Monday’s $900,000 payment to Vertol.
The flights to Massachusetts came as Republican governors in Texas and Arizona have bused thousands of immigrants to northern locales to call attention to the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
When asked why last week’s flights triggered the lawsuit, Alianza Americas Executive Director Oscar Chacón pointed to the circumstances surrounding the immigrants in San Antonio. Alianza Americas is a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit.
“Clearly, the event of the plane getting into Martha’s Vineyard, with people truly being tricked as to where they were going — nobody really knew where exactly they were going to,” Chacón told reporters. “I think it’s an opportunity of condensed, if you want, cases of abuse that could be documented, and I think that’s what made these particular cases stand out, compared to the number of buses that have arrived in Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, in particular.”
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida
Get out and vote for candidates that care about human beings. DeSantis is a copy cat Trumper that even imitates Trumps hands gestures. It is very comical to watch, how a grown person has to copy someone else to try and win peoples votes. Who can repect a copy cat.
David S. says
Abbot and DeathSantis need to be held accountable for this stunt..
The illegal have no rights here. They are illegal. Send them back home. Just a big burden on our taxes and schools. Who paying for there phoiney law suit ?
R. S. says
No human being is illegal. Think back when the St. Louis was sent back to Europe and 254 of the 937 passengers were killed in the holocaust. Would you want something like that on your conscience? Do you know what these people are running from? Some people think that helping others is a moral obligation. What would you ask to be done for you if you were to be on the run?
Michael Cocchiola says
Hey, Gary… they were legal immigrants under the jurisdiction of federal authorities. They were misled and lied to. They were treated like criminals for political profit. Very Christian of DeSantis. And your tax dollars paid for it all.
I hope DeSantis gets his ass sued and I hope you enjoy having your tax dollars wasted defending him and paying out a penalty.
Booger McFarland says
“People who enter the United States without our permission are illegal aliens and illegal aliens should not be treated the same as people who entered the U.S. legally.” Chuck Schumer in 2009.
Most of us in America today are descendants of immigrants. I am second generation.
Only the pilgrims or native American Indians are not immigrants! Go re read your grade school history books…….
Actually … the Pilgrims were immigrants from Western Europe. The Indigenous/Native American people appear to be the only true “original” Americans. My ancestry research traces my family on both sides back to British subjects who were some of the first to live in eastern Massachusetts, and while I am proud of my heritage, I also know that they arrived without invitation. Some of the history books have been deeply sanitized as to early relations between the guests and their welcoming committee. Besides the Mayflower, read up on Jamestown Settlement in Virginia (near Williamsburg) which was established 10 years before Plymouth. Those settlers/guests arrived in 1610, ten years ahead of the Mayflower.
Otherwise, I agree with your statement. Many, if not most, “Americans” are descendants of many countries, especially the European ones. The Irish, Italians, Polish and a few others endured a lot of prejudice until they had been here a couple of generations. Now that the dynamics of the guests have changed (skin color, ethnicity, race, religion) the previous occupiers are all alarmed.
Could we all make a better effort to coexist? I was raised in a tiny all-white farm town, yet my parents raised us to respect all people and to follow the Golden Rule. To this day, I do, and raised my own children to do the same.
Jack Howell says
What an ignorant statement!
A pastor on Martha’s Vineyard was interviewed and the article said:
“…when two planes of Venezuelan migrants arrived last Wednesday, the residents of Martha’s Vineyard were well equipped to help out. “That’s probably a bit of a surprise to the people who sent the planes here,” she [Rev Janet Newton] said, a reference to Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who sent the migrants to the island. “They didn’t understand how our community operated or that we could be prepared for this. Hospitality matters here.”
Welcome the stranger. Right in the Bible.
Yeah right thats why they were deported to a military base on the mainland within 48 hours. Multiple MVY community leaders decrying they had too much of a housing crisis of their own to handle 48 Aliens that cannot pay for Air B&B rentals and hotels. No Money? Get out!!! That was the message heard loud and clear across media. I hear Sanctuary cities Aspen and Vail Colorado are next up, I hear it lovely this time of year as the aspen leaves turn color… Hey someones gotta rake them right? They want jobs like they say or they want to follow liberals instructing them to on how to sue governors, (If they’re broke and can’t speak the ingles, they certainly are not hiring attorneys and opening lawsuits on their own)!
R. S. says
How heartless can one be? Do you know what they have gone through to get here? Do you know one single person of these people? And I’d bet that you’re a monolingual and don’t speak a word of Maskoki or Mikisuki, the languages of the Natives of Florida, do you?
Michael Cocchiola says
Don’t worry too much, Wow. Us liberals love to pay for lawyers to sue despots like DeSantis. I hope you like paying for his defense because you are doing so.
And don’t insult immigrants for being broke and unable to speak “Ingles”. That’s how my ansestors arrived on our shores and they did pretty well. They worked hard, paid taxes, raised families and enrichened America. Those Venezuelans will do the same if given a fair chance.
I have 2 daughter-in-law-laws who are immigrants – Vietnamese & Indian.
Both their parents came to the USA for a better life for their kids. One daughter -in-law is a doctor; the other a scientist!
Congratulations and I am happy they seem to be on their way to a happy and successful life. Question, did they come into the USA under the legal program or did they sneak across the southern border??? Most folks like me are 100% fine with LEGAL immigration but 100% against the illegals that cross our USA border, please answer
Bravo for your family! A perfect example of “given the opportunity.” Congratulations.
Alphonse Abonte says
Thank you ,Marthas Vineyard, for your example of how America should handle illegal immigration……
Zemo Klotz says
The Democratic officials in Marthas Vineyard are complaining that they don’t have the resources to house 50 illegal aliens….as of this morning there are 136 empty AIRBNB offerings in Marthas Vineyard…..
I do not trust governor de Santis. He does not represent my interests or my view of the world. He is a trump copy cat who is intelligent and knows better than to promote Trump’s big lies. I can only believe he acts like he does because he thinks it will give him a better chance to become president.
Wasting our hard earned tax dollars trafficking human beings across state lines and that is what they do in our dime for political stunt and gain other than spending on the many needy in Florida. Thank you Pierre for reporting it. I agree with Mr, Cocchiola above, we need less De(ath)Santis and his cheerleaders.
I don’t need to defend Gov DeSantis in any way but I just wonder if you are aware that our state government included $12 million dollars in our state budget for just this purpose. Florida is NOT a sanctuary state so why are you upset that our Gov used some of the money for what it was intended to be used for???
Pssst, Palm Coast has illegals, but he sent some from Texas with Florida’s money. This is a sanctuary state, he just says it is not, probably because he is clueless. Just try to get students’ status from schools.
Just so we are all clear, IF the reporting is correct and we don’t really know yet, those 49 ILLEGALS said they were interested in coming to Florida and thats why they were selected. I am positive every community in Florida has illegals and hopefully our government will address that also
Dennis C Rathsam says
Sorry guys but De Santis is a great governor….Sorry U woke liberals but FREE FLORIDA is for me! Why are all the people moving to our great state? It sure in hell aint to vote for flip flop, tax raiser Charlie Crist!
Dennis: Oh, Dennis. Do me a favor and go downtown Miami or Miami Beach with a “Free Florida” tee shirt. That would be so much fun! Oh, and about flip flopping, did you know Trump was a registered Democrat and donated to the Clintons? Life is full of conundrums, isn’t it?
I’m beginning to see how Trump gets his base, they are so easy!
I disagree about him being a great governor. He has spent his time trying to catch headlines. Trying to prove your point by using words like “woke liberals” and “free Florida” does not prove it. All you are doing is repeating propaganda. I am not a Charlie Crist fan either. This election is about voting against someone instead of voting for someone. It is sad that it is like that.
But it took less than 24 hours to remove refugees/immigrants from the sanctuary state of MA. Better it happen in Martha’s Vineyard than a busload of 50 or as the LT Governor said recently 400K overunning a rural town in Texase of 37K. Imagine that in 115K Flagler County ? Just the logistics of it, how many more children will be added to the new school zoning plans for taxation. To get an instant population explosion in Flagler County would be a bigger financial crisis than it already is. Some might say 50 people isn’t that much really, but that’s not where it’s ever going to end. That’s going to adversely affect the tax rates. I don’t know what the solution is, then again nobody is paying me for that job. If anything I’m being required to pay more to fund schools that are failing at English literacy for children that have been here all their lives, yet we’re concerned about what books these children have available. End of the day there, it doesn’t matter, they can’t read & comprehend the books anyway.
I have a heart like the next guy, but this is a dual literacy issue. Statistically, Flagler County would nosedive for English literacy, for Spanish another crisis would be created, teachers that aren’t Spanish literate would need to be trained or be imported in for dual language courses. The learning curve is just too steep, it just isn’t there.
I’ve got a different problem, new neighbors moved in with children. These parents allow their kids to play in the street traffic at a 3 way intersection. I don’t want these kids out there, just because one of them is going to get hurt, perhaps even run over by a car. These are USA kids, their parents are idiots & I have to watch this diversity sh*t show every day. Biden’s America, just keeps getting better doesn’t it ?
Dennis C Rathsam says
Someone has to stop this invation….These people are all illegal. Plain & simple…What happened to our laws? All you tree huggers out there are full of shit! Just like the hipocrites at Martha,s Vineyard….Wellcome everyone, but not in my city. Shit in your hat,put it on your head, you look good in brown curls.
@ Dennis C Ratham
When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers.
Alphonse Abonte says
The real lesson from the Martha Vineyard affairthat it is OK to use the military to remove illegal aliens from your community. That is the takeaway.
I think its comical how many people are on here acting like an astronomical amount of migrants entering the states is ok. Then turn around and complain about apartment buildings being built in palm coast because of the population and traffic!!!!!
They were not “legal immigrants” and Florida is not a “sanctuary state”. The migrants were removed in less than 48 hours, being no more welcomed in Martha’s Vineyard, than they would be in your own backyard. All this pissing and moaning about Gov. DeSantis showing the world how inept the border is being controlled, and crying how inhumane the event was, makes you libs a bunch of hypocrites. None of you were crying about displacing the migrants when your beloved President was doing it. As of June 2022, Biden has released nearly 1.05 million SW border migrants in the US. At 2,115 per day, not counting got-aways, and unaccompanied children, this is more people than the population of Delaware.
Bill C says
“Shit in your hat,put it on your head, you look good in brown curls.” Rathsam- you would know, you reek of ignorance- every one of your comments stand out for misspelled words. You think and write at a 5th grade level of education. The 5th graders are impressed with your wisdom.
Yeah, the “shit in your hat” comment leaves a lot to be desired. But seriously dude, you attack his grammar, when you should attack the substance of his comment? Even “5th graders” probably know this.
Bill C says
If you choose to defend ignorance that’s your call. When you stated “they were not legal immigrants” that was disinformation. You missed the part in the article that said “Many of them had been granted what is known as “humanitarian parole,” which allows people to remain in the U.S. temporarily” because they had applied for asylum.