“The 35-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Boston offers one of the most detailed accounts yet of how roughly 50 migrants found themselves on two planes that unexpectedly landed in Martha’s Vineyard last week, and trauma their new lawyers say they’ve suffered from their ordeal and from being thrust into the center of the national debate over immigration.
The plaintiffs include three Venezuelan migrants who boarded the planes to Martha’s Vineyard along with their family members as well as Alianza Americas, a Chicago-based advocacy group for Latino immigrant communities.
The complaint alleges that people working for DeSantis were “trolling streets outside of a migrant shelter in Texas and other similar locales, pretending to be good Samaritans offering humanitarian assistance,” including $10 McDonalds gift cards and free hotels while making “false promises and false representations” of employment, housing and educational opportunities awaiting the migrants in either Boston or Washington, D.C.
They were also allegedly told they would receive assistance with their immigration proceedings at their final destination and were “intentionally sequestered” before their departure from Texas “so they could not discuss the arrangement” and so that the migrants “would be less likely to leave or change their minds.”
Instead, the migrants were flown to Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, where “no one” on the island or “anywhere in Massachusetts” knew they were coming. They were given pamphlets “lifting language” from the state’s Refugee Resettlement Program — which the lawsuit argues none of the migrants are eligible for. And the people who recruited the migrants for the flights were “unreachable by phone” after they landed in Massachusetts.
“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 plaintiffs argue. “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.””
“DeSantis has continued to defend his actions, claiming last week that the migrants voluntarily boarded the flights and weren’t coerced. He has argued that Florida’s Republican-led Legislature approved $12 million to transport migrants out of the state, though Democrats have claimed the flights are improper uses of the allocated funds.”