Ron DeSantis’s staff dismissed as “political theater” a report that the Florida governor’s administration is being targeted in a lawsuit by a civil rights group for sending about 50 immigrants to the Massachusetts resort island of Martha’s Vineyard last week.
The lawsuit was filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights, which is based in Boston. The plaintiffs are three Venezuelan migrants who were in the group taken to Martha’s Vineyard, their family members, and Alianza Americas, a Chicago-based group that advocates for Latino immigrant communities in the U.S., Poltico reported.
The lawsuit names DeSantis and other Florida officials, including Jared Perdue, the state’s secretary of transportation, as defendants. It claims that DeSantis and others “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.”
But DeSantis’s office has criticized the lawsuit, calling it “political theater,” The Hill reported.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Julio Rosas, a senior writer for Town Hall, posted the full statement from DeSantis communications director Taryn Feske, which addressed the lawsuit and the issues surrounding the transportation of the immigrants to Massachusetts.
FL Gov. DeSantis’ office responds to the class action lawsuit that was filed in Massachusetts: “The immigrants were homeless, hungry, and abandoned – and these activists didn’t care about them then.”
Office also provided the consent form for flight to MA: pic.twitter.com/r4ZpX3kHbz
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) September 20, 2022
“It is opportunistic that activists would use illegal immigrants for political theater,” Feske’s statement read.
“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’s statement added.
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Feske also pointed out that the immigrants who were transported to Martha’s Vineyard signed a consent form before getting on the planes. The consent form was even included in Feske’s statement as proof.
“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 consent form, that Rosas also included in his tweet, read.
However, the lawsuit claimed that DeSantis and those who were part of the plan to send the migrants to Massachusetts violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. But the lawsuit claimed that “[b]y fraudulently inducing individual Plaintiffs to cross state lines in the manner described herein, Defendants unreasonably seized Plaintiffs without just cause.”
“Particularly after the individual Plaintiffs had boarded the airplanes and were in mid-air, Plaintiffs were not free to leave, and were induced into that condition through false promises and misrepresentations. This constitutes a governmental termination of Plaintiffs’ freedom of movement through means intentionally applied,” the lawsuit continued.
Meanwhile, the Fourteenth Amendment states that “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
The lawsuit claimed that “[b]y fraudulently inducing individual Plaintiffs to board an airplane and cross state lines in the manner described herein, Defendants engaged in an egregious abuse of power that deprived individual Plaintiffs of their liberty in a manner that shocks the conscience.”
It also alleged that the DeSantis and other authorities represented themselves as wanting to help the migrants but actually “sought to use them as props in a political stunt” and that the “actions not only offend all notions of fairness, but they also stripped Plaintiffs of their basic human dignity, in violation of due process.”
In light of all these claims, the lawsuit outlined that it is seeking compensation for damages to the plaintiffs and also demanding that the court officially block DeSantis and the other named defendants from “inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation.”
But, as DeSantis’ office has stressed, the transportation to Martha’s Vineyard was voluntary and Florida authorities were trying to provide immigrants help to get to a “sanctuary state,” The Hill reported.
“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,” Feske’s statement said.
“It was disappointing that Martha’s Vineyard called in the Massachusetts National Guard to bus them away from the island within 48 hours,” the statement added.
DeSantis has also said that no laws were broken in the transportation of the immigrants and that he plans to keep moving forward with Florida’s $12 million program to transport “unauthorized aliens” to places that have announced an openness to immigrants, NBC News reported.
“These are just the beginning efforts,” DeSantis said on Friday, CNN reported.
“We’ve got an infrastructure in place now,” DeSantis added. “There’s going to be a lot more that’s happening.”