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By NAN Staff Writer

NEWS AMERICAS, BOSTON, MA, Sept. 20, 2022: A Boston non-profit legal group has slapped a federal civil rights class action lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for his role in sending 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) today filed the lawsuit against DeSantis as well as the Secretary of Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, the State of Florida, and their accomplices, challenging that they engaged in a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme to transport nearly 50 vulnerable immigrants, including women and children, from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard without shelter or resources in place.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a class of affected immigrants, including the immigrants stranded in Martha’s Vineyard, and Alianza Americas, a network of migrant-led organizations supporting immigrants across the United States. 

The lawsuit claims the migrants were targeted and induced to board airplanes and cross state lines under false pretenses. LCR says the accomplices of state officials, including the Florida Governor, targeted the immigrants, who were recently released from shelters, and made false promises of work opportunities, schooling for the children, and immigration assistance in order to induce travel.

LCR and the pro bono effort attorneys including: Emily Leung of the Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts (South Coastal Counties Legal Services); Susan Church of Demissie & Church; Rachel Self of Rachel M. Self, P.C., and Julio Henriquez of Law Offices of Julio Henriquez, in the lawsuit, said Desantis has taken credit – and assumed responsibility – for the unlawful relocation scheme and pledged to continue this reprehensible behavior.

In addition to asking the federal court to enjoin defendants from inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation, the class action seeks damages for the harm suffered by the migrants.

LCR has been on the ground since the migrants arrived helping with coordination pro bono legal assistance and mobilization of community support.  LCR assisted in escorting the migrants off of the island to the base in Cape Cod. 

Until immediately before landing, the affected immigrants did not know they were going to Martha’s Vineyard, a geographically isolated island off the coast of Massachusetts, LCR claims in the lawsuit. “Once the planes landed in Martha’s Vineyard those who had coerced individuals to travel under these false pretenses disappeared, leaving the affected immigrants to learn that the offers of assistance had all been a ruse to exploit them for political purposes.”

“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, an organization providing free legal assistance to the migrants.

“For the Governor of Florida to cynically use recently arrived immigrants who have applied for asylum in the U.S. to advance a hate-driven agenda intended to create confusion and rejection throughout the country, is not only morally despicable, but utterly contrary to the best traditions of humanitarian protection embraced by most Americans,” stated Oscar Chacòn, Alianza Americas’ Executive Director.

“That is why we have taken the steps to legally challenge what we view as not only a morally reprehensible action, but what we believe is also illegal,” added Chacòn. “We want to do everything we can to prevent more abuses against newly arrived immigrants, especially asylum seekers who deserve support, protection and to be recognized for the incredible contributions they make to the U.S., as well as their loved ones in their home countries,” concluded Chacòn. 

“This cowardly political stunt has placed our clients in peril. Numerous laws were brazenly violated to secure media headlines,” said Oren Sellstrom, the Litigation Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights.  

 “These cowardly government actors must be held accountable for their clear misuse of government power,” said Jacob Love, an LCR Staff Attorney. 
“We will help our clients overcome adversity and ensure that they receive the dignity and respect they deserve through this ordeal,” said Mirian Albert, an LCR Staff Attorney who has been working directly with the migrants in Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod.

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