Migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis can sue charter flight company

BOSTON (AP) — Lawyers representing migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard nearly two years ago by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis can sue the charter flight company that transported them to the island off the Massachusetts coast, according to a ruling Monday by a federal judge in Boston.

The 50 Venezuelans were sent to Martha’s Vineyard from San Antonio, Texas, and had been promised work and housing opportunities.

Under Monday’s ruling, the migrants can proceed with their suit against Florida-based Vertol Systems Co., which had agreed to fly them to the island for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An email to the company seeking comment after the afternoon release of the ruling was not immediately returned.

Also named in the suit is DeSantis, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for president before dropping out in January.

The U.S. District Court of Massachusetts said in its ruling that it does not have jurisdiction over DeSantis in this case.

The court, however, found that the facts of the case “taken together, support an inference that Vertol and the other Defendants specifically targeted Plaintiffs because they were Latinx immigrants.”

The DeSantis administration noted that the judges’ order dismissed the state defendants.

“As we’ve always stated, the flights were conducted lawfully and authorized by the Florida Legislature,” Julia Friedland, the deputy press secretary for DeSantis, said in a statement. “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.”

The court also said that “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.”

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, called the 77-page ruling a major victory in the Martha’s Vineyard case.

He said in a statement that the ruling sends the message that private companies can be held accountable for helping rogue state actors violate the rights of vulnerable immigrants through what it characterized as illegal and fraudulent schemes.

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