Oct 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Texas sheriff declares Martha's Vineyard migrants crime victims

Venezuelan migrants gather at the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal in Martha's Vineyard on Sept. 16.

Migrants gather at the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Photo: Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

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

Why it matters: Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar's actions will enable the mostly Venezuelan migrants to obtain a special visa they otherwise wouldn't have received, enabling them to remain in the U.S., per the Texas Tribune.

What they're saying: "Based upon the claims of migrants being transported from Bexar County under false pretenses, we are investigating this case as possible Unlawful Restraint," said Salazar, an elected Democrat who's opened a criminal investigation into the migrant flights, on Thursday evening.

  • "We have submitted documentation through the federal system to ensure the migrants' availability 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 bussed to cities like Washington, New York and Chicago, DeSantis sent the migrants via two charter planes from Texas to Martha's Vineyard.
  • DeSantis, who maintains the flights to the Massachusetts island were part of a voluntary program involving consent forms, is facing several legal challenges to his actions.

What we're watching: In addition to Salazar's probe, the Treasury Department's Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation into the transport of the undocumented migrants to Martha's Vineyard.

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

Go deeper... On the ground: The scramble to help migrants on Martha's Vineyard

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