Florida officials created an “official-looking brochure” that used language from a refugee resettlement program to lure them to the planes with the false promise of better opportunities, the suit alleges.
A group of mostly Venezuelan migrants who were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Florida officials.
DeSantis and his co-defendants are accused of executing “a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme […] for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial and political interests,” according to the suit filed by Alianza Americas, a Chicago-based network of migrant-led organizations.
The suit goes on to allege that a woman going by the name of “Perla” approached the nearly 50 migrants outside San Antonio’s Migrant Resource Center with promises of jobs and better opportunities in Boston.
The defendants, who spent $615,000 chartering the planes, told the migrants they were flying to Boston or Washington, DC. Instead, they were dropped off without food, water or shelter at Martha’s Vineyard, where local officials were caught off-guard by their unexpected arrival, the suit claims.
The suit also alleges that in order to mislead them, Florida officials created an “official-looking brochure” that used language from the Massachusetts Refugee Resettlement Program to lure them to the planes with the promise of better opportunities. The document claims arrivals in Massachusetts can expect “8 months cash assistance,” “assistance with housing,” “food,” “job placement,” and other benefits. However, the benefits described are only available to specially designated refugees, not migrants currently in the process of seeking asylum.
Pawns in a Political Game
The migrants escaped a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela only for DeSantis to use them as “pawns in a political stunt,” the complaint says. They are seeking restitution for the “economic, emotional, and constitutional harms” they suffered. They are also asking the federal court to block DeSantis from repeating his actions.
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For his part, DeSantis has said he plans to spend millions that Florida has budgeted to continue the practice. Florida has committed $12 million to the migrant relocation program, even though the migrants DeSantis has relocated so far were in Texas, not Florida.
In response, the Biden administration is considering “litigation options.”
Currently, the migrants are being housed at Joint Base Cape Cod, where they have access to clothing, food and healthcare.