Special Visa Status
Texas sheriff certifies Martha's Vineyard migrants as crime victims, allowing for special visas
Sheriff Javier Salazar of Bexar County, Texas, has declared the 49 migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) were victims of a crime. Salazar's declaration will allow them to apply for a special visa to remain in the United States, per the Texas Tribune.
"Based upon the claims of migrants being transported from Bexar County under false pretenses, we are investigating this case as possible Unlawful Restraint," Salazar said in a statement to radio station WGBH.
Rachel Self, a Massachusetts attorney representing the mostly Venezuelan migrants, said Salazar's decision is critical to their applications for a U visa, an immigration status reserved for migrants who are either victims of or witnesses to certain crimes on U.S. soil. Applications for these visas need to be signed by a law enforcement officer before submission to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, per Politico.
Salazar's office announced it would be opening an investigation into the flights DeSantis chartered out of San Antonio on Sept. 15.
Migrants reported a woman named Perla convinced them to board the planes to Massachusetts by offering them employment, housing, and education resources if they complied, the Tribune reports.
DeSantis received significant backlash for transporting the migrants, a move he made to protest Biden's immigration policy. Several politicians deemed it a political ploy and urged the government to investigate.
The inspector general of the Treasury Department recently announced an investigation into whether DeSantis improperly used COVID relief funds to fund the planes to Martha's Vineyard.