Three Migrants Flown to Martha's Vineyard by DeSantis Granted U-Visas as Crime Victims

In 2022, Florida's governor orchestrated a scheme to fly migrants to Martha's Vineyard, but at least 3 have now been granted U-visas, highlighting the legal and ethical controversies surrounding the transportation of immigrants for political purposes.

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Nitish Verma
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Three Migrants Flown to Martha's Vineyard by DeSantis Granted U-Visas as Crime Victims

Three Migrants Flown to Martha's Vineyard by DeSantis Granted U-Visas as Crime Victims

In September 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis orchestrated a scheme to fly 49 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, from San Antonio, Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The migrants were promised jobs, shelter, and food upon arrival, but were instead left with nothing. Now, in April 2024, at least three of those migrants have been granted U-nonimmigrant status, a visa reserved for crime victims who help with police investigations.

The Bexar County sheriff in Texas opened a criminal investigation into the incident, alleging that the migrants were victims of a crime. The sheriff certified that the migrants were duped into boarding the flights with false promises and were assisting law enforcement, making them eligible for the U-visas. The sheriff recommended criminal charges for the deception tactics in June 2022, but the district attorney has not announced any charges yet.

Why this matters: The granting of U-visas to the migrants highlights the legal and ethical controversies surrounding the transportation of immigrants for political purposes. It also raises questions about the use of the U-visa system and the treatment of vulnerable individuals caught in the middle of contentious immigration debates.

The migrants are now able to legally work in the United States and have temporary protections from deportation while they wait for their visas to be fully processed, which can take up to 10 years. Some have also filed a class action lawsuit against DeSantis, his allies, and the charter flight company involved in the scheme, alleging violations of their civil rights. While DeSantis was dismissed from the suit on April 1, 2024, the case against the charter company is proceeding, with a federal judge finding that the company targeted the migrants because they were Latino immigrants.

Governor DeSantis has denied any wrongdoing in the matter. His office stated, "Immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, homeless, and 'left to fend for themselves.' Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected."

Key Takeaways

  • In 2022, DeSantis flew 49 migrants to Martha's Vineyard, deceiving them.
  • At least 3 migrants granted U-visas for crime victims assisting police.
  • Bexar County sheriff opened criminal investigation, alleging migrants were victims.
  • Migrants filed class action lawsuit, alleging civil rights violations.
  • DeSantis denies wrongdoing, suggests possibility of future migrant flights.