Asylum seekers sue Gov. DeSantis, others, over their airlift to Martha’s Vineyard

He’s accused of hatching ‘premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme’

By: - September 20, 2022 7:53 pm

Credit: Getty Images

Three of the roughly 50 Venezuelan asylum seekers airlifted by the DeSantis administration from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last week have filed a federal class action alleging illegal seizure, false arrest, violation of due process, and other federal offenses.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, names Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, the state, the transportation agency, and up to five as-yet unidentified participants in the airlift, identified as “Doe” defendants.

In a 35-page complaint, the Alianza Americas and three unnamed migrants noted that the migrants had fled “violence, instability, insecurity, and abuse of trust by corrupt government officials that most Americans could hardly conceive of,” coming to the United States “in a desperate attempt to protect themselves and their families.”

It asserts that DeSantis and his aides and “unidentified accomplices designed and 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.”

“This scheme involved the unidentified Doe defendants, acting in concert with the named defendants, identifying and targeting class members by trolling streets outside of a migrant shelter in Texas and other similar locales, pretending to be good Samaritans offering humanitarian assistance,” the document continues.

Instead, they flew the migrants to Massachusetts and dumped there for local people to take care of, it continues.

DeSantis has relished the backlash against his action, arguing that it called attention to President Joe Biden’s “open borders” policy by inflicting the consequences against a wealthy, liberal enclave up north.

Yet there have been calls for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and, in Texas, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar has announced his own investigation into whether the operation violated Texas law.

Here legally

The class-action complaint notes that the plaintiffs were in the country legally, with arrangements made to pursue their asylum claims through the immigration process.

“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 complaint says.

“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.”

The complaint argues for the creation of a litigation class comprising “all immigrants who have been, or will in the future be, induced by defendants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation.”

It seeks injunctive relief and as-yet unspecified monetary damages.

In all, the lawsuit raises 12 cause of action, including intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

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