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LEGAL RECOURSE: Migrant rights group puts DeSantis on notice with class action suit

LEGAL RECOURSE: Migrant rights group puts DeSantis on notice with class action suit

REVERSE COMMUTE? Venezuelan migrants in NYC offered $15/hr to aid in Florida cleanup efforts

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Alianza Americas, a transnational organization rooted in Latino immigrant communities, has filed a complaint against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his accomplices in the cruel migrant stunt that left 50 Venezuelan immigrants stranded in Martha’s Vineyard. Filed on behalf of Yanet, Pablo, and Jesus Doe, the suit alleges that the asylum seekers “suffered economic, emotional, and constitutional harms as a result of Defendants’ intentional, reckless, and negligent conduct.”

“They were left in the dark, with nothing, on a tarmac on an island,” the complaint states.

The Chicago-based non-profit has a 53-member network across the country and provides resources to immigrant communities,  immigrant-serving communities, and the general public related to issues of immigration, human rights, and democratic participation. According to Alianza, the defendants in the “Doe” case approached the plaintiffs, offering small gestures of kindness to gain their trust and get them to board the plane.

“Defendants provided items such as $10 McDonalds gift certificates to class members suffering from chronic food insecurity.”

Sequestered from the San Antonio shelter they were lured away from, the defendants kept the unwitting asylum seekers at an area hotel and away from real help and resources.

“In or around September 2022, Defendants and their unidentified accomplices designed and 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. This scheme involved the unidentified Doe Defendants, acting in concert with the named Defendants, identifying and targeting class members by trolling streets outside of a migrant shelter in Texas and other similar locales, pretending to be good Samaritans offering humanitarian assistance,” the complaint alleges.

Defendants manipulated them, stripped them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under law,”

Calling DeSantis’ actions “morally repugnant,” and “inhumane,” Alianza criticized the treatment of those taking the proper channels to achieve legal immigration status in this country who were – instead of being welcomed – subjected to the same types of abuses they are fleeing.

Because of poor health quality, kidnappings, poverty, and crime, the U.S. Department of Health has classified Venezuela with a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory.

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The vulnerable migrants – including Yanet Doe, her husband, and her 11-year-old son – were promised food, shelter, employment, and educational opportunities if they agreed to the flight. They were given a brochure titled “Massachusetts Refugee Benefits” and given an “Alien’s Change of Address Card.”

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“In Texas, the Doe Defendants had given telephone numbers to Plaintiffs and told them to call with any questions. But once the planes landed in Massachusetts, the Doe Defendants were suddenly nowhere to be found and unreachable by phone. Destitute and stranded, the Plaintiffs were now even more vulnerable to precarious conditions,” the complain explained.

“Upon arrival in Martha’s Vineyard, Plaintiff Yanet Doe felt helpless, defrauded, and desperate. She started crying. She felt anxious and confused. As a result, she suffered from lack of sleep and vertigo.”

Yanet Doe, Pablo Doe, Jesus Doe, and their families have similar stories. After being released from federal custody and determined eligible to remain in the U.S. pending a hearing, they were approached outside of a San Antonio area shelter known for housing asylum-seeking migrants. The same woman, known only as “Perla,” approached them offering assistance. Helpless and alone, they were grateful.

Perla, Defendant Doe #1, offered the hungry migrants $10 McDonald’s gift cards – but only if they wrote their names, date of birth and signed a paper written in English, and none of them understood.

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of all current and future migrant victims of DeSantis’ deception and subsequent trafficking. Asserting violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. “By fraudulently inducing individual Plaintiffs to cross state lines in the manner described herein, Defendants unreasonably seized Plaintiffs without just cause.”

“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 plaintiff’s freedom of movement through means intentionally applied,” the complain alleges.

The Immigration and Nationality Act makes it illegal to transport someone known to be undocumented – which could come back to bite DeSantis in the “you know what.” Taking the migrants at their word – there’s no reason not to – the violations to both U.S. and international law in regards to human and civil rights is clear. What DeSantis and those acting on his behalf did was not just morally reprehensible, but cruel – which appears to be the point.

But the migrants aren’t taking it lying down. No one likes being used, regardless of their citizenship status. Being lied to, and used as pawns in a sick and twisted political game, the “Defendants’ actions not only offend all notions of fairness, but they also stripped Plaintiffs of their basic human dignity, in violation of due process,” the complaint states.

Defendants negligently inflicted emotional distress on the individual Plaintiffs through their actions described throughout this complaint. This negligent infliction of emotional distress caused the Plaintiffs dignitary harms and physical manifestations of harm requiring mental health counseling and support.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to award compensatory, emotional distress, and punitive damages to the individual Plaintiffs and the class in an amount to be determined at trial.

Read the complaint here.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

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