ORLANDO, Fla. — A lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis filed in federal court Tuesday claims he violated the rights of the migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard last week.
The lawsuit was filed by an organization on behalf of three of the migrants who boarded the plane.
DeSantis’ office responded to the lawsuit late Tuesday with a statement that said, in part, “It is opportunistic that activists would use illegal immigrants for political theater...The transportation of the immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard was done on a voluntary basis. The immigrants were homeless, hungry, and abandoned - and these activists didn’t care about them then.”
The Governor’s office also shared a consent form they say one migrant completed.
It says the person agrees to be taken from Texas to a “sanctuary state,” and the person waives any liability claims from damage during the journey.
Attorneys note that the last line of the statement makes it clear that the government knew none of the migrants were illegal immigrants.
Additionally, while the English version says the plane’s final destination would be Massachusetts, the Spanish version doesn’t.
As the world watched the tiny island of Martha’s VIneyard step in to care for the 50 unexpected migrants, the story of how they landed there has started to unravel.
The lawsuit claims the migrants were given promises of housing, jobs, and immigration assistance that never materialized.
It’s also been discovered that DeSantis spent $600,000 of money meant to be used to remove illegal immigrants from Florida on asylum seekers from Texas.
“Everyone down there, we’ll say between the third and 40 percent of the people coming across are seeking to end up in Florida,” DeSantis said during an event defending the flights.
That hasn’t stopped the governor’s legal problems from growing.
Before a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of three of the migrants, a democratic sheriff from San Antonio launched a criminal investigation into the flights.
“You can’t go pluck people out of another state who are seemingly there legally, going through the legal process, and then send them to parts unknown,” Attorney Mark NeJame explained.
In the lawsuit, the migrants say they were kept in a hotel room for days, out of sight from aid workers. They were told they’d head to Boston or Washington D.C., not the isolated island.
The suit alleges they were also given brochures about Massachusetts aid programs that none of them were actually eligible for.
Immigration Attorney Frank Symphorien-Saavedra said he wasn’t surprised the lawsuit was filed.
“Everyone is entitled to due process under the law,” Symphorien-Saavedra said.
And there are additional concerns...Policy analysts are also coming out against Florida’s program as records show the state is sending another $900,000 to the same charter flight company for an expected second round of flights.
“$12 million is a lot of money,” Alexis Tsoukalas with the Florida Policy Institute said. “There’s so many other things that didn’t pass this season that would have really benefited Floridians.”
Tsoukalas adds the government failed to pass bills cracking down on wage theft or rising college costs that could’ve been paid for with the money.
She also said the pool of money was created without much transparency, appearing in an early draft budget as a much smaller amount before falling off most lawmakers’ radars.
Read the full lawsuit below:
See the full response from the Governor below:
“It is opportunistic that activists would use illegal immigrants for political theater. 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.
The transportation of the immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard was done on a voluntary basis. The immigrants were homeless, hungry, and abandoned – and these activists didn’t care about them then. Florida’s program gave them a fresh start in a sanctuary state and these individuals opted to take advantage of chartered flights to Massachusetts. It was disappointing that Martha’s Vineyard called in the Massachusetts National Guard to bus them away from the island within 48 hours.”— Communications Director Taryn Fenske
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