Class action lawsuit filed against DeSantis on behalf of migrants brought to Massachusetts – WCVB Boston

A group says it is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others over what it is calling a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to transport nearly 50 Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas to the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard without shelter or resources in place.The organization Lawyers for Civil Rights announced Tuesday that a federal civil rights class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of a class of affected immigrants, including the dozens flown to Martha’s Vineyard, and Alianza Americas, a network of migrant-led organizations supporting immigrants across the United States.According to Lawyers for Civil Rights, the group of migrants in San Antonio were targeted and induced to board airplanes and cross state lines under false pretenses.In addition to DeSantis, Lawyers for Civil Rights said it is suing Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, the state of Florida, and their accomplices.”No human being should be used as a political pawn in the nation’s highly polarized debate over immigration,” Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said in a statement.“It is opportunistic that activists would use illegal immigrants for political theater,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communication director, in a statement late Tuesday.The lawsuit alleges that the defendants pretended to be good samaritans offering help and gave the migrants $10 gift certificates for McDonald’s while they were in Texas.”After luring Plaintiffs by exploiting their most basic needs, the Doe Defendants then made false promises and false representations that if Plaintiffs and class members were willing to board airplanes to other states, they would receive employment, housing, educational opportunities, and other like assistance upon their arrival,” the lawsuit states.The migrants were temporarily housed in a Texas hotel, where their attorneys sai they were “sequestered away from the migrant center.” The migrants then procured and paid $615,000 for the private planes that took them to Martha’s Vineyard. According to the lawsuit, the defendants spent $12,300 per passenger aboard the flights. The lawsuit claims that the migrants were told they were going to Boston or Washington, D.C., “which was completely false.”Helena Olea, associate director for programs at Alianza Americas, said the migrants were given brochures that claimed to provide job placement, housing assistance, food assistance, English learning and eight months of cash assistance for income-eligible refugees.”The persons who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard were deceived, were misinformed,” Olea said. “They are asylum seekers. They do not have access to those services.” Click here to read the entire lawsuit filed on behalf of the migrants.The class action lawsuit comes a day after a sheriff in Texas announced he is launching a criminal investigation into the people responsible for transporting the group of migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard.Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announced Monday that, to his office’s understanding, a Venezuelan migrant was paid to recruit the migrants from the area surrounding the city of San Antonio’s Migrant Resource Center. “They feel they were lied to. They feel that they were deceived in being taken from Bexar County — from San Antonio, Texas — to where they eventually ended up,” Salazar said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday. “They feel like that was done through deceptive means. That could be a crime here in Texas and we will handle it as such.” Salazar, an elected Democrat, railed against the flights that took off in his city as political posturing. But he said investigators had so far only spoken to attorneys representing some of the migrants and did not name any potential suspects who might face charges.”I am very glad that the sheriff chose to open an investigation, I think that’s the right thing to do,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.The group of migrants landed in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday and were eventually brought to Joint Base Cape Cod on Friday.DeSantis said he paid for the flights from a state fund because those migrants were planning to travel to his state.Salazar did not mention DeSantis in a news conference that appeared to mark the first time a law enforcement official has said they would look into the flights.“I believe there is some criminal activity involved here,” Salazar said Monday. “But at present we are trying to keep an open mind and we are going to investigate to find out what exact laws were broken if that does turn out to be the case.”Baker said he has not spoken to DeSantis, but the Florida governor said Tuesday — before the class action lawsuit was announced — that allegations the migrants were transported to Massachusetts under false pretenses are false.”It was volunteer-offered transport to sanctuary jurisdictions,” DeSantis said.On Sunday, Baker announced that he has activated up to 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to help the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency in its relief efforts for the group of Venezuelan migrants, who are currently housed in a dormitory-style space at JBCC. Julio Henriquez, an attorney who met with several migrants, said the migrants were told they were going to Boston and “had no idea of where they were going or where they were.”He said a latina woman approached migrants at a city-run shelter in San Antonio and put them up at a nearby La Quinta Inn, where she visited daily with food and gift cards. She promised jobs and three months of housing in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston, according to Henriquez.Salazar said the migrants had been “preyed upon” and “hoodwinked.”State Rep. Dylan Fernandes and state Sen. Julian Cyr, who both represent Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, met with the migrants on Monday and called for a federal investigation into the matter.”Not only is this morally criminal, I think there are real implications here around human trafficking; around fraud, at a bare minimum; deprivation of liberty; kidnapping,” Fernandes said.”Not a single one of them are in violation of immigration law,” Cyr said. “They presented as asylum seekers. These are Venezuelans who are escaping a communist dictatorship.”Some Democrats have urged the Justice Department to investigate the flights, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, whose district includes San Antonio.Guesswork was rampant among government officials, advocates and journalists Tuesday about DeSantis’ next move, consistent with the element of surprise that he and another Republican governor, Greg Abbott of Texas, have sought to achieve by busing and flying migrants across the country to Democratic strongholds with little or no notice.Asked Tuesday about speculation that DeSantis may send migrants to his home state of Delaware, President Joe Biden said: “He should come visit. We have a beautiful shoreline.”DeSantis declined to confirm the speculation, based on flight-tracking software, that more migrants were on the move.MEMA continues to lead coordination efforts among state and local officials to ensure access to food, shelter and essential services for the migrants, according to the governor’s office. The state is also offering to help individuals travel to their ultimate destination.Since the group of 49 people arrived, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services has raised approximately $269,000 to help and another $50,000 through a community foundation.Baker’s office said those interested in supporting the emergency relief effort for the migrants should send an email to the Massachusetts Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters at MAVOAD@gmail.com.In a statement, Bourne Public Schools Superintendent Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhoe said the school district is ready and willing to provide an education to the six migrant children who were brought to Joint Base Cape Cod.Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

A group says it is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others over what it is calling a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to transport nearly 50 Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas to the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard without shelter or resources in place.

The organization Lawyers for Civil Rights announced Tuesday that a federal civil rights class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of a class of affected immigrants, including the dozens flown to Martha’s Vineyard, and Alianza Americas, a network of migrant-led organizations supporting immigrants across the United States.

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According to Lawyers for Civil Rights, the group of migrants in San Antonio were targeted and induced to board airplanes and cross state lines under false pretenses.

In addition to DeSantis, Lawyers for Civil Rights said it is suing Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, the state of Florida, and their accomplices.

“No human being should be used as a political pawn in the nation’s highly polarized debate over immigration,” Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said in a statement.

“It is opportunistic that activists would use illegal immigrants for political theater,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communication director, in a statement late Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants pretended to be good samaritans offering help and gave the migrants $10 gift certificates for McDonald’s while they were in Texas.

“After luring Plaintiffs by exploiting their most basic needs, the Doe Defendants then made false promises and false representations that if Plaintiffs and class members were willing to board airplanes to other states, they would receive employment, housing, educational opportunities, and other like assistance upon their arrival,” the lawsuit states.

The migrants were temporarily housed in a Texas hotel, where their attorneys sai they were “sequestered away from the migrant center.” The migrants then procured and paid $615,000 for the private planes that took them to Martha’s Vineyard. According to the lawsuit, the defendants spent $12,300 per passenger aboard the flights.

The lawsuit claims that the migrants were told they were going to Boston or Washington, D.C., “which was completely false.”

Helena Olea, associate director for programs at Alianza Americas, said the migrants were given brochures that claimed to provide job placement, housing assistance, food assistance, English learning and eight months of cash assistance for income-eligible refugees.

“The persons who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard were deceived, were misinformed,” Olea said. “They are asylum seekers. They do not have access to those services.”

Click here to read the entire lawsuit filed on behalf of the migrants.

The class action lawsuit comes a day after a sheriff in Texas announced he is launching a criminal investigation into the people responsible for transporting the group of migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announced Monday that, to his office’s understanding, a Venezuelan migrant was paid to recruit the migrants from the area surrounding the city of San Antonio’s Migrant Resource Center.

“They feel they were lied to. They feel that they were deceived in being taken from Bexar County — from San Antonio, Texas — to where they eventually ended up,” Salazar said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday. “They feel like that was done through deceptive means. That could be a crime here in Texas and we will handle it as such.”

Salazar, an elected Democrat, railed against the flights that took off in his city as political posturing. But he said investigators had so far only spoken to attorneys representing some of the migrants and did not name any potential suspects who might face charges.

“I am very glad that the sheriff chose to open an investigation, I think that’s the right thing to do,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.

The group of migrants landed in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday and were eventually brought to Joint Base Cape Cod on Friday.

DeSantis said he paid for the flights from a state fund because those migrants were planning to travel to his state.

Salazar did not mention DeSantis in a news conference that appeared to mark the first time a law enforcement official has said they would look into the flights.

“I believe there is some criminal activity involved here,” Salazar said Monday. “But at present we are trying to keep an open mind and we are going to investigate to find out what exact laws were broken if that does turn out to be the case.”

Baker said he has not spoken to DeSantis, but the Florida governor said Tuesday — before the class action lawsuit was announced — that allegations the migrants were transported to Massachusetts under false pretenses are false.

“It was volunteer-offered transport to sanctuary jurisdictions,” DeSantis said.

On Sunday, Baker announced that he has activated up to 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to help the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency in its relief efforts for the group of Venezuelan migrants, who are currently housed in a dormitory-style space at JBCC.

Julio Henriquez, an attorney who met with several migrants, said the migrants were told they were going to Boston and “had no idea of where they were going or where they were.”

He said a latina woman approached migrants at a city-run shelter in San Antonio and put them up at a nearby La Quinta Inn, where she visited daily with food and gift cards. She promised jobs and three months of housing in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston, according to Henriquez.

Salazar said the migrants had been “preyed upon” and “hoodwinked.”

State Rep. Dylan Fernandes and state Sen. Julian Cyr, who both represent Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, met with the migrants on Monday and called for a federal investigation into the matter.

“Not only is this morally criminal, I think there are real implications here around human trafficking; around fraud, at a bare minimum; deprivation of liberty; kidnapping,” Fernandes said.

“Not a single one of them are in violation of immigration law,” Cyr said. “They presented as asylum seekers. These are Venezuelans who are escaping a communist dictatorship.”

Some Democrats have urged the Justice Department to investigate the flights, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, whose district includes San Antonio.

Guesswork was rampant among government officials, advocates and journalists Tuesday about DeSantis’ next move, consistent with the element of surprise that he and another Republican governor, Greg Abbott of Texas, have sought to achieve by busing and flying migrants across the country to Democratic strongholds with little or no notice.

Asked Tuesday about speculation that DeSantis may send migrants to his home state of Delaware, President Joe Biden said: “He should come visit. We have a beautiful shoreline.”

DeSantis declined to confirm the speculation, based on flight-tracking software, that more migrants were on the move.

MEMA continues to lead coordination efforts among state and local officials to ensure access to food, shelter and essential services for the migrants, according to the governor’s office. The state is also offering to help individuals travel to their ultimate destination.

Since the group of 49 people arrived, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services has raised approximately $269,000 to help and another $50,000 through a community foundation.

Baker’s office said those interested in supporting the emergency relief effort for the migrants should send an email to the Massachusetts Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters at MAVOAD@gmail.com.

In a statement, Bourne Public Schools Superintendent Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhoe said the school district is ready and willing to provide an education to the six migrant children who were brought to Joint Base Cape Cod.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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