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DeSantis hits back at migrant lawsuit, calls it ‘political theater’

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis listens to a question during a press conference Sept. 7, 2022, in Miami, Fla.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) office is pushing back against a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of Venezuelan migrants the state flew to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., calling it an act of “political theater.”

“It is opportunistic that activists would use illegal immigrants for political theater,” DeSantis Communications Director Taryn Feske said in a statement Tuesday.

“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,” Feske continued.

Three unnamed migrants and immigration activists filed a class-action suit against DeSantis and the state’s transportation secretary earlier Tuesday, alleging they misled the migrants into boarding the flights through false promises.

The suit alleges DeSantis violated their Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

When reached for comment on the suit, DeSantis’s office provided a copy of consent forms they say the migrants signed before boarding.

“I agree to hold the benefactor or its designated representatives harmless of all liability arising out of or in any way relating to any injuries and damages that may occur during the agreed transport to locations outside of Texas until the final destination of Massachusetts,” the English version of the form states.

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, whose attorneys are representing the plaintiffs, said the form was not “properly or fully” translated into Spanish.

“Our clients could not have provided knowing or informed consent because material information and facts are missing from the document,” he told The Hill. “The documents released by the defendants are further evidence of the fraudulent scheme.”

The Spanish version of the form provided by DeSantis’s office is different from the English version. The Spanish version does not mention Massachusetts, instead referring to the final destination as “the sanctuary state.”

The relocations have sparked fury among Democrats, who argue DeSantis and two other GOP governors who have also transported migrants across state lines are using them as political pawns.

The GOP governors, who also include Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, argue the relocations provide relief to overwhelmed border communities that received an influx of migrants because of Democrats’ immigration policies.

Feske in the statement stressed the relocations were done on a “voluntary basis.”

“The immigrants were homeless, hungry, and abandoned – and these activists didn’t care about them then,” said Feske. “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.”

The suit provides the most detailed narrative yet about how the migrants came to board the flight.

The plaintiffs allege the migrants were located at shelters in Texas, where individuals approached them and falsely portrayed themselves as good Samaritans.

The suit states the individuals promised benefits such as housing and financial assistance, luring the migrants to eventually board the flights. 

Some of the migrants say they were told they were being sent to Washington, D.C., or Boston, only to be told while en route that they were instead heading to Martha’s Vineyard.

Updated: 4:53 p.m.

Tags Florida Greg Abbott Immigration Migrant busing migrant flights migrants Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis

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