Some migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard from San Antonio to get legal status, multiple reports say

Migrants are considered crime victims after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had them flown to Massachusetts

SAN ANTONIO – Some of the 49 migrants who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard from San Antonio in 2022 have been granted temporary legal immigration status — meaning they can now legally work in the U.S. and can’t be deported — because they are considered crime victims, according to multiple reports.

The migrants, mostly from Venezuela, were lured onto flights organized by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration. According to a lawsuit, the migrants were told they were going to Boston or Washington and were induced with perks such as $10 McDonald’s gift certificates. Instead, they were flown to the wealthy Massachusetts island.

DeSantis, a Republican, was following the lead of fellow Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has bused thousands of migrants to Chicago, New York, Denver, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The Florida governor has defended his decision, saying the migrants volunteered for the flights.

“Immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, homeless, and ‘left to fend for themselves,’” DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said at the time. “Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected.”

At least three of the migrants have received “bona fide determinations” in response to their U visa applications, immigration attorney Rachel Self told The Boston Globe this week. Self has been working with those who were flown to Massachusetts since September 2022. Self said she expects more to receive the determinations in the future.

This process was created to make reviews of U visa petitions more efficient and to provide “eligible victims of qualifying crimes” with the ability to work while they await final adjudication of their petition.

The federal government only issues 10,000 U visas per year. Bona fide determinations are a tool meant to give applicants protections while they wait.

The determinations were made possible by the fact that the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office certified that the migrants were legally victims of a crime and that they were assisting a law enforcement investigation. Sheriff Javier Salazar opened a criminal investigation shortly after the flights.

“I believe there is some criminal activity involved here,” Salazar, a Democrat, said at the time. “We are going to investigate to find out what exact laws were broken if that does turn out to be the case.”

After the conclusion of the investigation, Salazar sent the case to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office in September 2023. A decision on whether to present the case to a grand jury has yet to be made.

About the Author

David Ibañez has been managing editor of since the website's launch in October 2000.

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