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Class Action against DeSantis

October 4, 2022

Florida Governor DeSantis, a member of the Republican party, has been sued alongside other state officials in view of his new migration policy. The aggrieved migrants instituted a class action on 14th September 2022 after being flown to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Their cause of action is centered on alleged fraud on the part of Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, inducing their migration from Texas on his directive. Critics argue that the Governor’s action was politically driven at the risk of stability in the lives of their migrants. It can be considered to be a revolt against the President’s open border policy, which is largely seen as the democrats’ mandate.

Who are the parties to the suit?

This class action was brought in the Federal court in Massachusetts upon the filings of Alianza Americas, together with three non-citizens individually and on behalf of all others affected by the government’s actions. The individual plaintiffs were among the ones flown by DeSantis from Florida to Martha’s Vinyard, and the Alianza Americas is a non-for-profit defending immigrants’ rights.

Alianza Americas has its root in the Latino immigrant communities in the United States with the aim of promoting humane, just and equitable policies. Apparently, DeSantis migration policy violates the tenets of the organization necessitating its involvement in the suit. 

The lawsuit features Ronald DeSantis, Florida’s Governor, as one of the defendants. He is sued alongside Jared Perdue, the Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation; and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Key allegations against Florida’s Government

Florida’s governor, as the defendant, and the state officials have been accused of executing a fraudulent scheme that advances their personal and political interests. These accusations were made in a statement by Alianza Americas and the three migrants. It is alleged that about $615,000 was spent chartering planes, with financial assistance through the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund. The use of the funds was alleged to breach the restrictions imposed on its use.

The Migrants boarded the plane having been deceived that they were heading to Boston or Washington D.C for a better life. Their vulnerability, specifically the migrants from Venezuela, can be linked to their experiences as victims of the humanitarian crisis in their country. It explains the hope for a “better life” that guided that actions.

  1. Inducement

It is alleged that the defendants gained the plaintiff’s trust and cooperation through the provision of Mcdonald’s gift certificates to curb food insecurity as well as free hotel stays. The exploitation of their basic needs enabled the exploitative situation, with false promises of education, housing, and employment upon arrival at Massachusetts.

The defendants, through their agents, trolled streets close to the San Antonio migrant shelter and other areas to lure about 50 migrants to leave for Martha’s Vineyard. The plaintiffs alleged that they were left at Martha’s Vineyard at the mercy of the locals., with no provision made for their basic needs.

  • Violation of Rights

The  plaintiffs seek a class action status at the federal court in Massachusetts in view of the alleged ruse being tortious, a violation of federal statutes, and the plaintiff’s protection under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the American Constitution.

Oren Sellstrom in his address as the Plaintiffs’ counsel stated that the locals at Martha Vineyard did not anticipate their arrival. He also argues that the Defendants were unresponsive to calls from the migrants who wanted to make inquiries about their situation. He emphasized the deprivation of liberty, manipulative acts of the defendants, and interference with the Federal Government’s exclusive control over immigration.

 It is of interest to note that Oren Sellstrom serves as the litigation director at Lawyers for Civil Rights, a charitable legal aid group in Boston. The Legal aid group demanded that the federal and state authorities undertake an investigation into the migrants’ flights to Martha Vineyard. Images of alleged brochures that were given to the migrants to induce their departure were posted. It was said that the brochures were intended to support DeSantis’ ruse.

Plaintiffs’ claims in the Lawsuit

The plaintiffs, in their address to the court, are praying for the certification of their action as a class action, with the migrants as class representatives. In addition, a declaration that the defendant’s actions are unconstitutional and in breach of federal and state statutes. The Plaintiffs also asked the court to award damages to them, and enjoin the defendants from using fraudulent means to induce immigrants to travel across state lines.

The Defendants’ position in the Lawsuit

DeSantis defended his actions stating that there were no legal violations. One of his spokespersons, Taryn Fenske emphasized in this statement that the migrants acted voluntarily. The Defendants argue that the migration offered the migrants access to better opportunities with the sanctuary jurisdiction.

Taryn Fenske spoke against the growing interest of the activists in immigrant welfare upon their move to Massachusetts. He highlighted that the activists had failed to look out for the migrants while they suffered of hunger and abandonment in Florida. DeSantis seems convinced about the positive impact of the $ 12 million program to relocate migrants, as he undertook to continue the project.

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