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Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard file lawsuit against DeSantis, Florida

The governor's office said the "transportation of the immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard was done on a voluntary basis."

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Migrants who fled from Venezuela and were taken to Martha's Vineyard on two planes filed a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state on Tuesday.

The 50 migrants made up of men, women and children were flown out on two planes to Massachusetts as part of what DeSantis calls the state's relocation program.

According to the lawsuit, the migrants fled Venezuela because their lives were threatened by violence, insecurity, abuse of trust by government officials and instability.

The lawsuit accuses multiple unnamed state agents of inflicting trauma on the migrants for their own political statement. 

"[They]...executed a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme centered on exploiting this vulnerability for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial and political interests," the lawsuit stated. 

Oren Sellstrom, the litigation director for Lawyers for Civil Rights that represents the plaintiffs, told 10 Tampa Bay, "It's never in anyone's best interest to be treated as an object and to be used for someone else's political purposes."

While the lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, Sellstrom said the core issue "is about stopping this sort of course of conduct on the part of the Florida governor and his accomplices going forward."

In a statement from the DeSantis' communications director, Taryn Fenske, she says the state gave the migrants a "fresh start" at Martha's Vineyard before they were bused away from the island within two days.

"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," wrote Fenske. 

"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."

Migrants were allegedly told false promises by those who were in the process of relocating them to Martha's Vineyard, such as that they would get employment, housing, educational opportunities, and other assistance upon their arrival in either Boston or Washington D.C., the lawsuit says.

Also, the migrants reportedly were not told that they were being transported to Martha's Vineyard and were not given any food or water during the flight. 

Migrants were dropped off at Martha's Vineyard in the evening with no food, water, or shelter, and nobody in Massachusetts was alerted of their arrival, according to the lawsuit. 

DeSantis' office also presented a copy of the official consent to transportation forms given to the migrants in two languages reportedly before they flew to Massachusetts. 

Credit: Office of the Governor (Florida)
The governor's office said the migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard were given a consent form before they arrived in the "sanctuary state."

The Florida governor said he is standing by his decision to fly the migrants to another state and plans to relocate more migrants to sanctuary cities. 

Records show the state of Florida recently paid $615,000 to an Oregon-based aviation company as part of what the DeSantis administration calls a state "relocation program." They also show the state paid the same company $950,000 on September 19 for the same purposes. 

On Monday, Florida Democratic leaders outlined a plan for the state legislature to put an end to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordering the transport of migrants to other places, which can be viewed by clicking here.


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