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Migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard sue DeSantis

Plaintiffs allege 'fraud and misrepresentation' and say they 'experienced cruelty'

Venezuelan migrants and volunteers celebrate together outside of St. Andrew's Parish House on Martha's Vineyard last week.
Venezuelan migrants and volunteers celebrate together outside of St. Andrew's Parish House on Martha's Vineyard last week. (Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Migrants flown last week to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., as a protest against Democratic immigration policies filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on behalf of three Venezuelan migrants by the Boston-based organization Lawyers for Civil Rights. The plaintiffs asked the court to bar state governors from transporting migrants across state lines through “fraud and misrepresentation” and to award damages to the migrants.

DeSantis flew dozens of people seeking asylum in the U.S. to Martha’s Vineyard on Sept. 14, the latest effort by a Republican governor to highlight record-high border crossings by sending migrants to Democratic-run cities and towns.

The governors of Texas and Arizona have already bused thousands of migrants to Washington, D.C., and New York.

The migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard “experienced cruelty akin to what they fled in their home country,” the lawsuit said, noting that the State Department currently advises Americans not to travel to Venezuela due to political unrest and poor humanitarian conditions.

The migrants, who were processed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after arriving at the border, were given misleading information about where they were being flown, the lawsuit alleges. They were also told that they would receive employment opportunities, housing and other assistance if they boarded the flights.

“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,” the lawsuit said.

DeSantis’ office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. At a press conference last week, he said that Florida is not a sanctuary jurisdiction, referring to states and local governments that limit how local police can help federal immigration authorities.

“And, yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures,” DeSantis said. “The minute even a small fraction of what those border towns deal with every day is brought to their front door, they all of a sudden go berserk, and they’re so upset that this is happening.”

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