Victory for Martha’s Vineyard Migrants!

Immigrant Rights

In the lawsuit filed by the Martha’s Vineyard migrants and Alianza Americas, the federal court in Boston has allowed Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) and pro bono counsel to immediately proceed with legal claims against the plane company, Vertol Systems. Vertol contracted with the State of Florida to carry out the flights and was responsible for transporting the migrants to Massachusetts. The favorable ruling is a major victory in the Martha’s Vineyard case, and it sends a crucial message: private companies can — and will — be held accountable for helping rogue state actors violate the rights of vulnerable immigrants through illegal and fraudulent schemes. 

All other defendants have been dismissed, but only for now. The dismissal is “without prejudice” — meaning that the claims may be reasserted and reinstated. 

To be clear: the Martha’s Vineyard migrants will not stop here. 

In response to today’s 77-page ruling, the migrants will continue to pursue their claims in federal court against all defendants — including by seeking jurisdictional discovery to prove the viability of the claims against the dismissed parties. Put simply, the migrants will zealously seek accountability for what the Court has dubbed, at this preliminary stage, “tortious” acts. 

In today’s order, the federal court greenlit numerous claims, including “civil rights conspiracy” and “civil conspiracy” among others. By allowing major claims to proceed against the plane company, the federal court has provided a roadmap for further legal proceedings in line with its initial observations and findings.  

Worst for defendants, the Court noted that the complaint sufficiently demonstrates that the scheme was racially motivated along discriminatory lines:

  • “[t]hese facts, taken together, support an inference that Vertol and the other Defendants specifically targeted Plaintiffs because they were Latinx immigrants.” 

The opinion confirms what LCR has repeatedly asserted about the unlawful nature of the fraudulent scheme. Specifically, the Court noted: 

  • “Vertol and the other Defendants here were not legitimately enforcing any immigration laws.”
  • “Unlike ICE agents legitimately enforcing the country’s immigration laws… the Court sees no legitimate purpose for rounding up highly vulnerable individuals on false pretenses and publicly injecting them into a divisive national debate…”

Additionally, the Court noted that, at this stage, the pleadings have established that the migrants suffered “actual” and “severe” injuries, including discrimination based on their race, substantive due process violations, and unlawful seizure. The Court acknowledged that our clients alleged a harrowing experience that caused them severe emotional distress. In response to the migrants’ horrifying experience, the court stated:

  • “No reasonable person should have to endure the anxiety that comes with being unwillingly inserted into a divisive national debate.”
  • “Treating vulnerable individuals like Plaintiffs in this way, as alleged and accepted as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss . . . is nothing short of extreme, outrageous, uncivilized, intolerable, and stunning.”

Next, the migrants will seek jurisdictional discovery to continue to assert claims against DeSantis and other conspiracy perpetrators, including all the state defendants who have been dismissed for the time being. 

This case, Alianza Americas v. DeSantis, No. 22-cv-11550, is pending before Judge Burroughs in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston. 

The decision is available here.