A copy of the form that the migrants were asked to sign by DeSantis’ office.

DeSantis’ office cited the form as evidence that the migrants were not misled into traveling from a San Antonio migrant resource center with false promises of work and living conditions, as a lawsuit claims in federal court filed Tuesday on behalf of the migrants. DeSantis chartered two flights to bring the migrants to Massachusetts and said last week it was “just the beginning” of efforts to relocate people crossing the border to protest the Biden administration’s border policies.

This week, DeSantis chartered two flights carrying migrants, the majority of whom are believed to be from Venezuela,

But Rachel M. Self, an immigration attorney with offices in Boston and Weymouth who represents some of the migrants, said the form does not begin to pass the legal muster.

“Considering valid informed consent is ridiculous,” Self said. “Anyone can clearly see that not all of the English text is translated into Spanish.”

Labeling the document as an official consent form “doesn’t make it that way,” she said.

“If I put a fat-free label on a pound of butter, does that make it fat-free?” she asked.

Migrants in Texas were told that they would get jobs, free accommodation and even English lessons if they agreed to make the trip, she said. None of these things are mentioned in the consent form.

“I’ve never seen a shape like this in the 19 years of work I’ve done,” Self said. “I just think it’s very important for people to understand and use their common sense. Look at the form. Look at the vulnerable state of [the migrants] who get on buses under false pretenses to get on that plane. When in the history of all mankind was an individual who tricked a human being into a mode of transportation with false promises good for people in transportation? »

DeSantis’ office released the form as Boston-based civil rights attorneys sued DeSantis, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, and others involved in the migrant resettlement at Martha’s Vineyard, alleging that officials were running an illegal scheme that exploited vulnerable immigrants with false promises of cash payments and job opportunities.

The class action lawsuit said the resettlement was a “premeditated, fraudulent and illegal scheme centered on exploiting” the vulnerability of immigrants who fled to the United States “in a desperate attempt to protect themselves and their families from harm.” gangs, police and state sponsored violence”.

The migrants received emergency shelter and care at Martha’s Vineyard before being transported to temporary accommodation at a military base on Cape Cod.

The lawsuit was filed in US District Court in Boston on behalf of migrants and Alianza Americas, a network of immigrant-led support organizations across the country. He named as defendants DeSantis and other Florida officials, along with five “unidentified accomplices.”

In response to the lawsuit, DeSantis’ office accused the attorneys of “political theatre” and blamed the underlying immigration issues on the “reckless border policies of the Biden administration.”

“The transportation of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard was done on a voluntary basis,” his office said. “The immigrants were homeless, starving and abandoned – and these activists didn’t care about them back then. The Florida program gave them a fresh start in a sanctuary state and these people chose to take advantage of charter flights to Massachusetts.

The lawsuit alleged that people working with Florida officials approached migrants near the San Antonio Resource Center and other locations, provided inducements such as $10 McDonald’s gift cards and made false promises to jobs, housing and educational opportunities to persuade them to board planes. .

“It was bait and switch, classic,” Self said. “There are serious consequences here because this was about people, children and families.”

The defendants allegedly spent $615,000 on chartered private planes for the immigrants, falsely telling them they were going to Boston or Washington, DC, according to the lawsuit.

When the Venezuelans arrived at Martha’s Vineyard with no notice and no assistance services waiting for them, they tried to call the people in Texas who had persuaded them to board the planes but could not reach them, according to reports. documents.

The relocation further inflamed an already tense national debate over immigration policies, with Republican governors of border states saying their communities were overwhelmed. New data shows border arrests topped 2 million for the first time in a single year.

Susan Church, a Cambridge-based immigration lawyer, said by email that the form provided by DeSantis’ office is “legally useless and invalid as it was induced by fraud, not fully translated and obtained by deception”.

“Why would they ask immigrants to sign this unless they were concerned about their actions in the first place?” she asked. “I have absolutely never seen anyone sign this type of form before.”

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said “the consent forms themselves are additional evidence against the defendants.

“They make it clear that the material information about how the resettlement would happen, where it would go, was not included in the forms, especially in the Spanish translated part of the form,” he said during a briefing. a press conference on the trial. The form has not been fully translated. Important information that our clients would have needed to make an informed decision and give consent was missing.

Miki Kawashima Matrician, an immigration lawyer who serves as vice chair of the New England board of directors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she had never heard of migrants being asked to sign. consent forms.

“Under these circumstances, it is curious why DeSantis would rely on these signed consent forms, when the consent was based on false terms,” Matrician said via email.

Material from previous Globe stories has been used in this report.

Travis Andersen can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.


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