Criminal investigation proves beneficial to 49 migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard last year

‘The chances of getting an asylum in Boston are much higher than chances of getting asylum in Florida or Texas.’

SAN ANTONIO – Exactly 12 months ago, 49 migrants were flown to Martha’s Vineyard from San Antonio.

Muzzafar Chishti, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, said those 49 people were scattered to different military installations after arriving at Martha’s Vineyard, but all have mostly stayed in Massachusetts.

On September 14, public records requests were made by The League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, and various media outlets to learn who was behind the operation to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

The next day, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, took credit for transporting the migrants -- an effort Muzaffar Chishti said was clearly done with a political motive.

“I think he was using it for his own Florida domestic consumption that he could do something like this and more importantly, he did this with state money,” said Chishti.

Chishti said there’s always been a long history of contention between the federal government and the states as to who has what kind of limits on immigration authority, but never a state versus another.

“We have never had states going after states in the fight for the role of immigration in our federal structure. This is pretty unique,” said Chishti.

It’s a unique action that has resulted in an ironic outcome. What was seen as a cruel political move, Chishti said, was a blessing in disguise in more than one way.

“One is that they came to Martha’s Vineyard, which is a rich community, which has a lot of volunteers who came to help them,” said Chishti.

And the other is that they’re in a friendly immigration culture jurisdiction.

“The chances of getting an asylum in Boston are much higher than chances of getting asylum in Florida or Texas,” said Chishti.

And finally, what Chishti said has helped the 49 migrants the most is a criminal investigation launched by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office that makes these migrants potentially eligible for a U visa -- a visa given by the federal government to victims of crime.

“Which allows you to eventually apply for permanent residence if you are supporting a law enforcement agency in a criminal investigation,” said Chishti.

Whether the criminal investigation is successful or not, Chishti said it doesn’t matter as long as the testimony of any of these 49 people is helping the case and that provides the basis for people to apply for a visa.

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About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.