Hungry Venezuelan migrants were given $10 McDonald's gift cards to gain their trust, a lawsuit says.
The gifts were part of a "scheme" by DeSantis to get them to fly from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard.
Unnamed "Doe" defendants falsely promised that the migrants would receive employment, and housing if they boarded planes.
People working with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave hungry Venezuelan migrants $10 McDonald's gift certificates to gain their trust as part of a "scheme" to fly them from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha's Vineyard to advance a political agenda, according to a new lawsuit against the governor.
DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential contender, has taken credit for chartering two planes with state funds to fly about 50 migrants to the Massachusetts island last week to protest President Joe Biden's immigration policies.
According to the federal class action lawsuit, unnamed people working with DeSantis identified and targeted the migrants, who suffer from chronic food insecurity, by "trolling streets outside of a migrant shelter" in Texas, "pretending to be good Samaritans and offering humanitarian assistance."
The lawsuit describes how "several dozen people," including a Venezuelan migrant plaintiff identified as Jesus Doe, were gathered "to sign a document in order to receive a $10 McDonald's gift card," without any explanation of what the document stated. "It was not completely translated to Spanish: an entire paragraph about liability and transport was not translated at all and language specifying that the journey would take place from Texas to Massachusetts was not translated at all either," the lawsuit says.
"Plaintiff Jesus Doe was directed to write his name, date of birth and signature on the document before he would receive the gift card," the lawsuit says.
After offering the gift certificates, they promised the migrants educational opportunities and other assistance if they boarded planes to other states, the lawsuit says.
The migrants were put up in hotels away from the migrant center, and away "from the possibility of actual good Samaritans finding out how the class members were being abused."
They were told they were flying to Boston or Washington, DC, and they would receive help with their immigration proceedings at their destination. But they were dropped off at Martha's Vineyard with no food, water, shelter, or anyone who knew they were coming. The "Doe" defendants "disappeared" after that and didn't answer the migrants' alarmed calls, the lawsuit says.
DeSantis' spokesperson Taryn Fenske, responding to the lawsuit, provided a copy of the consent form provided to the migrants for the flight to Massachusetts.
Fenske said in a statement: "The transportation of the immigrants to Martha's Vineyard was done on a voluntary basis. The immigrants were homeless, hungry, and abandoned – and these activists didn't care about them then. Florida's program gave them a fresh start in a sanctuary state and these individuals opted to take advantage of chartered flights to Massachusetts. It was disappointing that Martha's Vineyard called in the Massachusetts National Guard to bus them away from the island within 48 hours."
A Texas sheriff said on Monday that he's opening a criminal investigation into the migrants' transport, saying they were "lured" with "promises of a better life."
In addition to DeSantis, the class action lawsuit names Florida Transportation Secretary Jared W. Perdue, the state of Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation, and five unnamed "Doe" defendants.
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