A brochure given to migrants in order to convince them to board planes headed from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, falsely suggested they would be given access to refugee resettlement benefits like housing assistance, job interviews, and even help with cash and food.
The brochure, a copy of which was provided to Popular.info’s Judd Legum by Lawyers for Civil Rights, was so shoddy that it even got the Massachusetts state flag wrong, instead depicting what appears to be a hobbyist’s reimagining of the state’s actual flag.
“Not officially or anything I just think the current one blows so I made this one featuring the state flower,” said the description of the flag on Imgur page that turned up when the image that appeared on the brochure was run through a Google search.
The brochure is the latest indication that the migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last week were deliberately deceived. Migrants who spoke to the press have indicated that they were promised expedited work permits, help “with the rent, to get a job,” and transportation to Boston or New York. Instead, they were sent to the Massachusetts island with no resources, and authorities in Martha’s Vineyard were given no advance notice of their arrival. The only thing that was prepared seems to have been a camera crew sent by sent by DeSantis, as Massachusetts Rep. Bill Keating noted last week.
Residents of Martha’s Vineyard rushed to provide material and legal aid to the migrants, while lawyers who arrived at the scene learned that some of the migrants had court dates scheduled throughout the county and that the majority of the migrants were asylum seekers who’d crossed the border in Texas, and not eligible for Massachusetts refugee resettlement benefits. Boston-area attorney Matt Cameron explained to Popular.info that those in the process of establishing an asylum claim are not eligible for refugee benefits, given that they fall on completely different legal tracks, namely through a referral requirement from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Nevertheless, the brochure included the phone number and website for the Massachusetts Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Boston-area attorney Rachel Self indicated last week that the migrants that arrived in Martha’s Vineyard were incorrectly given instructions to register a change of address with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is not the government organization with oversight over asylum cases. “It is clear that this was an intentional attempt to ensure that these migrants were removed in-absentia when they failed to change their address with the proper agency,” Self told reporters.
Experts have told Rolling Stone that if the allegations made by the migrants are substantiated, it could constitute criminal action by the Florida government and those involved in organizing the scheme. Deception by state authorities or those in charge of the transport would mean migrants likely “have a viable cause of action to sue DeSantis and those who helped him,” said Georgetown Law Professor Heidi Li Feldman. Some, including Lawyers for Civil Rights, are already pushing Massachusetts to open criminal investigations into the Florida governor’s actions.