Texas sheriff declares Martha’s Vineyard migrants crime victims, granting visas

A Texas sheriff has moved to confirm that the 49 migrants Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) had flown to Martha’s Vineyard were the victims of a crime.

Why is it important: Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar’s actions will allow most Venezuelan migrants to obtain a special visa they would not otherwise have received, allowing them to remain in the United States, according to the Texas Tribune.

What they say: ““Based on the allegations that migrants have been transported from Bexar County under false pretenses, we are investigating this case as possible unlawful restraint,” Salazar, a Democrat-elect who has opened a criminal investigation into the migrant flights, said Thursday night.

  • “We have submitted documentation through the federal system to ensure the migrants are available as witnesses during the investigation,” he added in his emailed statement.

The big picture: DeSantis last month joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in transporting migrants and asylum seekers to predominantly Democratic-run cities in protest of President Biden’s immigration policies.

  • While Abbott has arranged for migrants to be transported to cities such as Washington, New York and Chicago, DeSantis sent the migrants via two chartered flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
  • DeSantis, who claims the flights to the Massachusetts island were part of a voluntary program involving consent decrees, faces several legal challenges to his actions.

What we see: In addition to Salazar’s investigation, the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation into the transportation of the undocumented migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

  • Among the legal challenges facing DeSantis and other Florida officials is a class-action lawsuit filed by the migrants flown to Massachusetts, who claim they were lured onto the planes with false promises of money and job assistance — allegations the governor denies.

Go deeper… On the Ground: The Struggle to Help Migrants on Martha’s Vineyard

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