Migrants and civil rights attorneys file federal lawsuit against DeSantis administration

Lawyers for a group of immigrants who boarded an unannounced flight from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who allegedly directed “fraudulent” and discriminatory scheme” to transport a group of 50 people, including families with young children, as part of a political stunt.

The suit alleges that the governor and members of his administration targeted immigrants who had recently been released from shelters who made false promises of job opportunities, education and financial aid before landing on the island, with only voluntary support from local groups and support from state agencies. emergency assistance.

The lawyers claimed that the migrants were exploited for “political purposes”.

“No one should be used as a political pawn in this country’s highly polarized debate on immigration,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Civil Rights Lawyers Group. said in a statement.

The lawsuit details how the three Venezuelan immigrants named in the lawsuit and their families — including a woman with an 11-year-old son — were “rounded up” and promised benefits before boarding the flight.

It also details their harrowing journey from Venezuela, where they fled unrest, crime and threats of violence after the country’s economic and political collapse, surrendered to US authorities at the US-Mexico border, and were subsequently detained and released, as well as When their pictures circulated in the international media, they realized they had been cheated, emotionally hurt and anxious.

After the plaintiffs were released and remained in the local shelter, despite following the proper channels of legal immigration, the defendants “manipulated them, deprived them of their dignity, and deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under the law.” . litigation.

The lawsuit also includes two unnamed defendants who “targeted” a number of boarding personnel, as well as three other unnamed defendants involved in the alleged scheme.

The allegations, which mirror accounts of immigrants talking to reporters about the ordeal, include multiple allegations that a woman known only as “Perla” was at the center of the alleged forced boarding of immigrants, offering cash and McDonald’s gift cards to help recruit other people.

The Latino Citizens Coalition, the largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States, is also distributing “wanted” flyers in San Antonio for information on Pella’s identity. The group has offered a $5,000 reward for information that would “identify, arrest and convict” her.

The lawsuit also includes details about a false brochure disguised as an official government-backed document promoting “refugee” aid from Massachusetts agencies, but not created or approved by state agencies that support refugee aid.

Migrants who arrived in Massachusetts on Sept. 16 spent two nights in a church shelter on the small island of Martha’s Vineyard, where community groups mobilized to provide food, clothing and other aid, they were moved to a more remote location on the mainland. Large shelter, separate room and medical and legal support.

State officials Report The families were “in good health and spirits” and had access to legal services, humanitarian aid and interpretation services.

Meanwhile, officials in Delaware and the White House are bracing for the possible arrival of another plane carrying immigrants from Texas. A plane was due to land on Sept. 20 off the coast of Delaware, about 20 miles from President Joe Biden’s home in Rehoboth Beach.

Governor DeSantis told reporters Tuesday that he “couldn’t confirm” reports of the second flight.

His administration took credit for the Martha’s Vineyard stunt and has repeatedly defended his actions, backed by a $12 million plan in the state’s budget. In total, the state has so far paid an airline at least $1.56 million for the state’s “unauthorized alien relocation program.”

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