Migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard by DeSantis can sue charter flight company, judge rules

Migrants who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in September 2022 can proceed with their case against charter flight company Vertol Systems Co., a district court judge ruled late last week.

A Massachusetts district court judge dismissed three counts levied against the Florida-based company but ruled Vertol must face the eight remaining counts. The judge dismissed the state actors, including DeSantis, as defendants in this case, after determining the court lacked jurisdiction.

On Sept. 14, 2022, migrants boarded two flights from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard after allegedly being falsely promised better housing, work and educational opportunities.

GOP governors including DeSantis have flown and bused migrants to locations including Massachusetts, New York and Chicago, as what they say is an attempt to make liberal locations feel the impacts of lax immigration policies.

Lawyers on behalf of the migrants filed the case making allegations including violations of the Fourth and 14th amendments, civil rights violations, discrimination, false imprisonment, fraud/deceit, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and aiding and abetting.

Judge Allison D. Burroughs wrote that the defendants were not “legitimately enforcing any immigration laws,” but, “Instead, as alleged, they ‘exploit[ed] [Plaintiffs] in a scheme to boost the national profile of Defendant DeSantis and manipulate them for political ends.'”

“Moreover, Plaintiffs’ images were captured and sent to national news media. … Unlike ICE agents legitimately enforcing the country’s immigration laws, … the Court sees no legitimate purpose for rounding up highly vulnerable individuals on false pretenses and publicly injecting them into a divisive national debate,” Burroughs continued. “Treating vulnerable individuals like Plaintiffs in this way, as alleged and accepted as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss, … is nothing short of extreme, outrageous, uncivilized, intolerable, and stunning.”

The judge also ruled that lawyers for the migrants have sufficiently alleged that the migrants were targeted because they were from South American countries or are “Latinx, and thus made for better props in Defendants’ photo op.”

Vertol did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for DeSantis’s office said in a statement: “As we’ve always stated, the flights were conducted lawfully and authorized by the Florida Legislature. We look forward to Florida’s next illegal immigrant relocation flight, and we are glad to bring national attention to the crisis at the southern border.”

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