Filed Date: Sept. 20, 2022
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This is a case about the relocation of about fifty immigrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, by chartered planes. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants—Florida officials and unidentified individuals—induced the immigrants to board two planes with promises of employment, housing, and educational opportunities at their destination, but that once the planes landed in Martha's Vineyard, the immigrants were left without any assistance and the defendants were unreachable.
On September 20, 2022, three Venezuelan individuals, seeking to represent a class of "all immigrants who [had] been, or [would] in the future be, induced by Defendants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation," and Alianza Americas, a nonprofit that seeks to support immigrant communities, filed this putative class action lawsuit in the United States district court for the District of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs sued the state of Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and unidentified accomplices under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(d) and 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), alleging numerous constitutional and federal statutory violations, as well as violations of state law. Represented by Lawyers for Civil Rights, the plaintiffs sought certification of their class, declaratory and injunctive relief, and compensatory, emotional distress, and punitive damages. Plaintiffs specifically asked the court to declare the defendants’ conduct unconstitutional and enjoin the defendants from inducing immigrants to travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation. The case was assigned to Judge Allison D. Burroughs and Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal. One day after filing, Judge Burroughs granted the plaintiffs' motion ot proceed pseudonymously.
The private plaintiffs fled Venezuela for Texas and immediately surrendered themselves to federal immigration officials. The plaintiffs were allegedly approached by unidentified individuals outside of migrant shelters in Texas and promised shelter and employment by the defendants if they boarded a flight that they were told was destined for Boston or Washington D.C. The complaint alleges that when the chartered planes dropped the immigrants off on Martha's Vineyard, it quickly became apparent that no one knew they were coming, but the defendants disappeared and could not be reached through the communication details they had provided. One day after the flight landed in Martha's Vineyard, Governor DeSantis announced that he had funded the endeavor through appropriations by the Florida Legislature to the Florida Department of Transportation. The funds were designated to be used for the state's program targeting the relocation of immigrants to sanctuary states, which Florida is not.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that by fraudulently inducing the immigrants to board a plane to Martha's Vineyard—which they were unable to exit once it was in flight—the immigrants were unreasonably seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that the defendants' scheme constituted a conspiracy to deprive them of their civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). The plaintiffs also alleged that their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were violated when (1) the defendants fraudulently induced the immigrants to cross state lines with empty promises for the purpose of a political stunt and (2) the defendants transported them thousands of miles away from the location of their federal immigration proceedings without first holding a hearing. The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendants violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth by discriminating against them on the basis of race and national origin, noting that the defendants had not targeted for relocation any individuals that were white or born in the United States.
The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendants' actions violated the Supremacy Clause because the Constitution grants the federal government sole and exclusive power to regulate immigration. They therefore alleged that by transporting immigrants who were under the management of federal immigration authorities, the defendants were in direct conflict with federal immigration policy.
The plaintiffs also asserted a claim under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), which created the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund in order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects. They argued that the funds used to transport them originated from ARPA and therefore needed to adhere to the Act's use restrictions. The plaintiffs argued that the conduct of the defendants did not fall within the approved uses of the funds.
Lastly, the plaintiffs also alleged a number of claims arising under state law: fraud, deceit, false imprisonment, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiffs alleged that they had relied on the defendants’ promises of housing, work, and basic human services to their detriment and that the defendants concealed their true motive of using the immigrants to make a political point about immigration policy. The plaintiffs also alleged that they suffered emotional trauma after being transported to a different state in an unfamiliar country during a time when they were in need of the services that defendants had falsely offered.
On October 5, 2022, a private U.S. citizen moved to intervene on behalf of himself and all other citizens of the United States to vindicate "basic human rights" and "defend [U.S.] borders and sovereignty," arguing that intervention was warranted because "taxpayer[s] must pay the costs associated with illegal immigration[.]" Judge Burroughs denied the motion to intervene in a brief order issued November 21, 2022, finding that intervention would not "be helpful, constructive, or protect an otherwise unrepresented interest."
This case was ongoing as of November 27, 2022.
Rhea Sharma (11/6/2022)
See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/65362095/alianza-americas-v-desantis/
Last updated Dec. 25, 2022, 3:03 a.m.
State / Territory: Massachusetts
Filing Date: Sept. 20, 2022
Case Ongoing: Yes
All immigrants who have been, or will in the future be, induced by defendants to travel across state lines by fraud misrepresentation.
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Pending
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: None Yet / None
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief: