A group of Venezuelans who were among dozens of migrants who were flown to Martha's Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have filed a lawsuit against the Republican governor.
The class action lawsuit, filed Tuesday by the plaintiffs under pseudonyms against DeSantis and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, claims the migrants were deprived of "their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under law."
The suit said the migrants fled Venezuela and crossed the U.S. southern border before surrendering to federal immigration officials.
According to the suit, some unidentified people allegedly working with DeSantis had been "trolling streets outside of a migrant shelter in Texas and other similar locales, pretending to be good Samaritans offering humanitarian assistance."
Those people provided the migrants with McDonald's gift certificates, put them up for free in hotels and then made false promises that if they were willing to board airplanes to other states, they would receive employment, housing, educational opportunities and other assistance upon their arrival, the suit alleges.
The migrants claim they were told they were flying to Boston or Washington, D.C. but instead wound up in Martha's Vineyard, where they were dropped off without food, water or shelter, the suit said.
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"These immigrants, who are pursuing the proper channels for lawful immigration status in the United States, experienced cruelty akin to what they fled in their home country," the suit said. "Defendants manipulated them, stripped them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under law, and impermissibly interfered with the Federal Government’s exclusive control over immigration in furtherance of an unlawful goal and a personal political agenda."
DeSantis said all migrants went voluntarily and were provided with information on assistance they could receive in the area.
The migrants spent a day and a half at the wealthy Massachusetts enclave before they were taken to a Cape Cod military base.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday before the lawsuit was announced, DeSantis placed the blame on the Biden administration's border policies.
"Those migrants were being treated horribly by Biden, they were hungry, homeless, they had no opportunity at all. State of Florida, it was volunteer, offered transport to sanctuary jurisdictions," DeSantis said. "If you believe in open borders then it's the sanctuary jurisdictions that should have to bear the brunt of the open borders."
DeSantis also spoke of the border towns that have had to absorb a massive influx of migrants.
"They were provided an ability to be in the most posh sanctuary jurisdiction maybe in the world and obviously it's sad that Martha's Vineyard people deported them the next day, they could have absorbed this, they chose not to," DeSantis said. "But what it shows is if 50 was a burden on one of the richest places in our country, what about all these other communities that have been overrun with hundreds or thousands?"
At a briefing later Tuesday White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the migrant flights "political stunts" and said DeSantis' goal was "to create chaos and use immigrants fleeing communism as political pawns."
A local sheriff in Texas announced Monday that he had opened an investigation into last week's flights to Martha's Vineyard, which originated in his county.