Venezuelan migrants Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis picked up in Texas and flew to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts last week sued DeSantis and other Florida officials Tuesday. They allege they are the victims of fraud. Three of the migrants filed with Alizana Americas, a Chicago-based network of organizations supporting migrants, and are seeking class-action status on behalf of the group.
They allege DeSantis and other Florida official executed “a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme … for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial and political interests, a “ruse” that violated Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment constitution protections, as well as several other federal laws. They are seeking damages and asking the court to block DeSantis from using “fraud and misrepresentation” to con immigrants into traveling across state lines and jeopardizing their asylum claims.
The form the migrants were coerced or bribed into signing was only partially translated in Spanish, with DeSantis confirmed Tuesday in response to the suit, when he released the “consent form” the migrants allegedly signed.
The suit accuses that DeSantis and other Florida officials, including some unidentified defendants, of “trolling streets” in San Antonio outside of a shelter that provides migrant housing and services and at other locations. The suit alleges that the 48 migrants were lured with McDonald’s gift certificates and hotel vouchers, and then promised jobs, housing, and educational opportunities in other states if they got on the planes.
Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), an advocacy group told the Miami Herald that these asylum seekers in particular are “easy pickings” for scammers, having fled violence and poverty with nothing.
“These people have no money or resources,” Garcia said. His group had traveled to the border town of Eagle Pass, where migrants enter, to warn incomers against the kind of trap DeSantis set. “They’re totally vulnerable to any offer of free transportation since they don’t have any resources of their own. If you’re a young mother without any resources, you’re easy pickings for people who are going to use you as political pawns.”
Which is precisely what DeSantis counted on. “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 suit claims.
“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 suit alleges.
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