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Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard have filed a lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is being sued on behalf of migrants who were flown to Martha's Vineyard last Wednesday without warning.
Ronda Churchill
/
Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is being sued on behalf of migrants who were flown to Martha's Vineyard last Wednesday without warning.

A civil rights law firm filed a federal class action lawsuit on Tuesday against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others for transporting around 50 immigrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha's Vineyard, without shelter or resources in place.

The firm Lawyers for Civil Rights, in conjunction with the migrant-led nonprofit Alianza Americas, filed the suit on behalf of the "Vineyard migrants and all similarly situated people who are fraudulently induced to travel across state lines by DeSantis and the State of Florida," the group told NPR in an email. In addition to Gov. DeSantis, the lawsuit also named the state of Florida, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, and their accomplices as defendants.

The legal action comes after last Wednesday, when nearly 50 migrants were taken on planes from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, with a stop in Florida in between. They arrived with no warning, and the local community scrambled to provide food, shelter and translation services. The migrants say they were not told about their final destination, but were promised a chance at jobs and a better life.

Alianza Americas' Executive Director Oscar Chacón said that DeSantis used the migrants to "advance a hate-filled agenda." "That is why we have taken the steps to legally challenge what we view as not only a morally reprehensible action, but what we believe is also illegal," he said.

Attorneys want DeSantis and his fellow defendants to be banned from "inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation," as well as damages "for the harm suffered by the migrants."

On Monday, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said in a news release that his office is investigating whether the migrants were victims of crimes:

The Bexar County Sheriff's Office has opened an investigation into the migrants that were lured from the Migrant Resource Center, located in Bexar County, TX, and flown to Florida, where they were ultimately left to fend for themselves in Martha's Vineyard, MA.

Hours after Salazar announced the criminal investigation, DeSantis appeared on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News. The governor said that the investigation was an overreaction, and that the migrants had chose to go to Martha's Vineyard voluntarily. He also asserted that all of the migrants had signed consent forms (which his office later shared with NPR) and said that any condemnation of the flights was "virtue signaling."

DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske released a statement Tuesday night accusing activists of being "opportunistic" and using illegal immigrants for political theater." Added Fenske: "If these activists spent even a fraction of this time and effort at the border, perhaps some accountability would be brought to the Biden administration's reckless border policies that entice illegal immigrants to make dangerous and often lethal journeys through Central America and put their lives in the hands of cartels and Coyotes."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matt Adams
Matt Adams is an Audience Engagement Strategist at NPR, where he is always thinking of how a broadcast company can do more on the internet. His focus is on social media strategy and how to connect NPR with new audiences in creative ways, from community building to social audio.