Florida Governor DeSantis sued for flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was sued for sending plane loads of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, with the migrants claiming they were duped into making the trip with vouchers for free fast food and promises of employment and housing.

About 50 migrants from Venezuela near shelters in Texas were targeted by people pretending to be “good Samaritans offering humanitarian assistance,” including $10 McDonald’s Corp. certificates, according to the proposed class-action complaint filed Tuesday in Boston federal court.

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DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, both Republicans, have been sending thousands of people north -- more than 10,000 from Texas alone -- to Democratic-led cities including New York, Washington and Chicago, saying those places should help bear the brunt of President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

Two planes sent by DeSantis landed in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, and the next day two buses chartered by Abbott arrived near Vice President Kamala Harris’s home in Washington.

Now, officials in Biden’s home state of Delaware are preparing for the arrival of a plane transporting undocumented migrants from Texas.

The lawsuit was filed by Alianza Americas, a group of organizations assisting immigrants, a day after a sheriff in Texas said he’d opened a criminal investigation into who had “lured and transported migrants in his state” to Martha’s Vineyard.

DeSantis’s communications director, Taryn Fenske, said late Tuesday the relocation of the immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard was done on a “voluntary basis.”

Florida gave them a “fresh start in a sanctuary state and these individuals opted to take advantage of chartered flights to Massachusetts,” she said in an emailed statement.

Alianza Americas claims Florida’s governor violated constitutional protections of due process rights, and against unreasonable seizures.

After the migrants were induced to board the planes, they weren’t free to leave, and they suffered “severe emotional distress while being used to make a political point,” according to the complaint.

“It is a serious complaint with allegations of constitutional violations and other misconduct that are supported in the law,” said Denise Gilman, director of the immigration law clinic at University of Texas at Austin.

Florida paid $615,000 for private chartered planes, at a cost of $12,300 per passenger, telling the migrants they were flying to Boston or Washington, which was “completely false,” according to the complaint.

Instead, they landed on Martha’s Vineyard in the evening, without food, water, shelter, or anyone knowing about their arrival, according to the suit. The island off the Massachusetts coast best is known as a tony haven for presidents and wealthy vacationers.

Florida representatives didn’t answer alarmed phone calls from the migrants wanting to learn what had gone wrong, according to the complaint. “But nothing had ‘gone wrong.’ Instead, the scheme worked exactly as DeSantis’s team intended,” according to the complaint.

The suit also names Jared W. Perdue, Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation, as a defendant. The agency disburses the $12 million in funding that DeSantis is using to relocate migrants, according to the suit.

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