The sheriff in Texas confirms that migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard were victims of a crime

Texas Sheriff Javier Salazar confirmed Thursday that the group of migrants flown last month to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) were victims of a crime, qualifying them for visas .

Salazar, the Bexar County sheriff, submitted certification documents that will allow the nearly 50 migrants to apply for U visas, which give crime victims nonimmigrant status in the United States to ensure they are available as witnesses during investigations or trials.

“Based on the allegations that migrants are being transported from Bexar County under false pretenses, we are investigating this matter as possible unlawful restraint,” Salazar said in a statement to GBH News.

The Venezuelan nationals transported to Martha’s Vineyard were reportedly given false information about where they were going and the support they would receive at their destination.

The certification comes a day after the Treasury Department announced it would investigate DeSantis’ use of COVID-19 relief money and the “authorization” of financing migrant transport with the money or interest earned on it.

Salazar launched an investigation into the Martha’s Vineyard incident shortly after it occurred, claiming the migrants were “lured” under “false pretenses.”

The sheriff told Massachusetts news station WGBH that his office has identified suspects in the investigation but is not releasing names publicly while the investigation progresses.

The Hill has reached out to Salazar for comment.

Immigration attorneys, including Rachel Self, are working with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office to interview the migrants as part of the criminal investigation.

“Since the day they landed on Martha’s Vineyard, it has been clear to everyone who spoke to them that the migrants had been traded and victimized,” Self wrote to The Hill in a statement.

“These certifications will ensure that the migrants can continue to assist our law enforcement officials and that they will be able to process and heal from the incredibly traumatic experiences they have suffered as a result of the cruel, heartless acts perpetrated against them. “

The migrants have also filed a class action lawsuit against DeSantis based on allegations of “fraud” and “misrepresentation.”

“Defendants manipulated them, deprived them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under the law, and impermissibly interfered with the federal government’s exclusive control over immigration to further an illegal goal and a personal political agenda. ,” the lawsuit reads, referring to its plaintiffs.

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