Migrants flown to island suing Florida gov

Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis (AFP/File)

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Fifty mainly Venezuelan migrants flown from Texas last week to the posh island of Martha’s Vineyard in the northeast United States on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, charging they were duped into taking the flight as part of a cruel stunt highlighting federal immigration policy.

The class action suit, filed in Massachusetts by immigrant rights group Alianza Americas and three unnamed Venezuelans representing the whole group, said the migrants had been lured from Texas shelters on to a chartered flight with false promises of jobs and assistance, as well as $10 McDonalds gift vouchers.

It said the plaintiffs had fled socialist-controlled Venezuela, a country riven by violence and economic collapse, “in a desperate attempt to protect themselves and their families from gang, police, and state-sponsored violence and the oppression of political dissent.”

It said that as they were “pursuing the proper channels for lawful immigration status in the United States, [they] experienced cruelty akin to what they fled in their home country.”

DeSantis has taken credit for flying the migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.

The lawsuit said that DeSantis, tipped as possible Republican presidential candidate in 2024, and several other Florida officials, had also “impermissibly interfered with the Federal Government’s exclusive control over immigration in furtherance of an unlawful goal and a personal political agenda.”

The advocacy group taking part in the suit said the private charter flight last week cost an estimated $615,000.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial at which punitive damages would be assessed.

Immigration is a flashpoint issue in America ahead of midterm elections in November.

As the lawsuit was filed in Massachusets, in Delaware, where President Joe Biden has a home, reports of another migrant flight from Texas heading in had media scrambling to the coastal Georgetown airport.

The plane changed course and ended up going to Nashville and then to New Jersey, according to flight tracking sites.

Civil society organizations had come from Washington but also from Wilmington, Delaware, to welcome the migrants, with translators.

Emily David, spokesperson for Delaware’s governor, told AFP “we’re just here and ready and enabling our state agencies and community partners to be ready to welcome folks if and when they do arrive.”


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