Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard say they were misled

Migrants board a bus at the ferry terminal on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts on Sept 16, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES

EDGARTOWN, Massachusetts - Migrants shipped to this elite vacation island by Florida's Republican governor said Friday they had been misled about where they were being taken, prompting immigration lawyers to promise legal action as the group of Venezuelans were relocated temporarily to a federal military base.

The lawyers said they would seek an injunction in federal court early next week to stop the flights of migrants to cities around the country, alleging that the Republican governor violated due process and the civil rights of the migrants flown from Texas to the small island off the coast of Massachusetts.

"They were told, 'You have a hearing in San Antonio, but don't worry, we'll take you to Boston'," said Mr Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director for Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston.

He said dozens of the migrants told his team they only had been informed midair that they were going to land in tony Martha's Vineyard rather than Boston.

"They were also told there would be employment opportunities and immigration relief available to them if they boarded the plane," Mr Espinoza-Madrigal said. "That's not only state interference with federal immigration matters, it's also a violation of our clients' civil rights."

The lawyers lobbed legal threats as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vehemently defended his actions, saying the flights were voluntary and denying that the migrants were misled, and the White House condemned him for using human beings as political pawns.

"Luring asylum-seekers under false pretences and then abandoning them on the side of the road thousands of miles away is not the solution to a global challenge - in fact, those are the kinds of tactics we arrest smugglers for," said Mr Abdullah Hasan, a White House spokesperson.

The drama underscored the decades-old shortcomings of a backlogged immigration system groaning under the weight of thousands of migrants fleeing persecution and economic instability.

And it demonstrated once again how easily the fate of immigrants can be swept up in a toxic political battle, especially in election season.

A fleet of buses arrived at St Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgartown Friday morning to ferry about 50 migrants - many of them dazed and a bit confused, but happy to be in the United States at last - to Joint Base Cape Cod, a temporary shelter. NYTIMES

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