The Venezuelan migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard at the order of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Republican leader for using them as "pawns in a political stunt."
Lawyers for Civil Rights filed the federal civil rights lawsuit working with the migrants from Joint Base Cape Cod along with Alianza Americas. The groups said these men, women, and children fled their home country out of fear and violence and made a harrowing journey to America only to be caught in a political tug of war and left stranded with no options.
“No human being should be used as a political pawn in the nation’s highly polarized debate over immigration,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, in a news release. The group said it is offering the migrants free legal assistance.
DeSantis is following the lead of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who have sent thousands of asylum seekers to sanctuary cities over the past few weeks. Democrats have decried the move as cheap political maneuvering ahead of the midterms at best and cruel and potentially illegal at worst. Republicans say this is fallout from the border crisis that President Joe Biden has created.
DeSantis said on Monday, Sept. 19, that it was Democrats engaging in political theater, not him.
"You've had migrants die in the Rio Grande — you had 50 die in Texas in a trailer because they were being neglected. Was there a freakout about that? No, there wasn't," DeSantis said, according to NPR.
Some 13,000 migrants have been flown from those states to Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, and others, The Hill reported. Several groups have filed lawsuits on behalf of the migrants.
According to NPR, DeSantis' office said he allowed the migrants to "seek greener pastures in (a) sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them."
But the migrants sent to Martha's Vineyard said they were "manipulated" to board a plane in Florida and handed a brochure entitled "Massachusetts Refugee Benefits" that promised they would be met with federal officials who would help them with immigration services, the lawsuit says. Instead, there was no one waiting for them.
Moreover, officials on the island did not know about the flight, and towns on Martha's Vineyard had to scramble to house, feed, and help the migrants for two nights before the state moved them to larger facilities on the mainland.
“This cowardly political stunt has placed our clients in peril," said Oren Sellstrom, the Litigation Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, in a press release. "Numerous laws were brazenly violated to secure media headlines."See Attachment
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