One of the reasons that Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, arranged to move those hijacked immigrants from Martha’s Vineyard to Joint Base Cape Cod was that the facility there was a full-service emergency services shelter. One of the services included in that full service is legal representation. On Tuesday, that paid off. From the Boston Globe:
The class action lawsuit said the relocation 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 gang, police, and state-sponsored violence.” The lawsuit was filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights in US District Court in Boston on behalf of the migrants and Alianza Americas, a network of immigrant-led support organizations across the country. It named as defendants DeSantis, seen as a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, and other Florida officials, along with five “unidentified accomplices.”
As filed, the lawsuit is direct and specific.
In or around September 2022, Defendants and their unidentified accomplices designed and executed a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme centered on exploiting this vulnerability for the sole purpose of advancing their own personal, financial and political interests. This scheme involved the unidentified Doe Defendants, acting in concert with the named Defendants, identifying and targeting class members by trolling streets outside of a migrant shelter in Texas and other similar locales, pretending to be good Samaritans offering humanitarian assistance.
To gain the Plaintiffs’ trust, and to induce unwitting cooperation with Defendants’ scheme, the Doe Defendants provided items such as $10 McDonalds gift certificates to class members suffering from chronic food insecurity. After luring Plaintiffs by exploiting their most basic needs, the Doe Defendants then made false promises and false representations that if Plaintiffs and class members were willing to board airplanes to other states, they would receive employment, housing, educational opportunities, and other like assistance upon their arrival. Next, the Defendants put class members up for free in hotels, sequestered away from the migrant center, and from the possibility of actual good Samaritans finding out how the class members were being abused.
On information and belief, the Defendants procured and paid $615,000 for private chartered planes ($12,300 per passenger), transported class members to the aircrafts, and told them they were flying to Boston or Washington, D.C., which was completely false. Instead, the chartered airplanes dropped Plaintiffs off on Martha’s Vineyard in the evening, with no food, water or shelter.
That part about “personal, financial, and political interests” is the red-hot core of this scheme’s basic inhumanity. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to run for president, and he wants to run for president as Trump Without Tears. So for the benefit of terrified white people in Cedar Rapids, Ottumwa, Waterloo, and other locations in the state of Iowa, he (or one of his bright young advisors) dreamed up this cockamamie semi-kidnapping plot. This is all about snow-hung high school gymnasiums in Iowa and New Hampshire in the winter of 2023–24. Desperate people are dragooned into being ersatz field organizers for DeSantis ’24. The future is now.
I have no idea whether or not this lawsuit will succeed, but I do know that Charlie Baker, who is a lame-duck with nothing to lose, seems to be fed up to his molars with this kind of manipulative trickeration from his ambitious Southern colleagues. On Tuesday, Baker expressed support for Texas Sheriff Javier Salazar’s criminal probe into the scheme.
“It’s up to the authorities on the ground there to figure out what did and didn’t happen,” Baker said during an unrelated event, according to footage posted to WBZ-TV. “I am very glad that the sheriff chose to open an investigation. I think that’s the right thing to do.”
Also pushing back is Democratic state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, whose Cape Cod district includes Martha’s Vineyard.
Fernandes, a Falmouth Democrat who represents Martha’s Vineyard, said several migrants have told him they were promised three months’ worth of work and housing if they agreed to relocate to Massachusetts, as well as legal assistance to guide them through the immigration process. “They reiterated that they were lied to and got onto the plane under false pretenses,” Fernandes said. In an interview on GBH-TV, Fernandes said he has received death threats over his support for the migrants and has alerted State Police.
Given the prominence of performance actors like DeSantis in our politics, this was sadly predictable. As I’ve noted, I’m not blog-lawyer enough to know how the suit will work out. But if it inconveniences DeSantis and his henchpeople in Florida and Texas sufficiently, or if it manages to haul DeSantis’ ass into the Whitey Bulger Memorial Federal Courtroom in Boston, so much the better.
Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976. He lives near Boston and has his three children.
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