Transportation of Venezuelan Migrants to Martha's Vineyard Under Investigation

Venezuelan migrants near bus in Martha's VineyardVenezuelan migrants near bus in Martha's Vineyard
Getty Images

A Texas sheriff's department is investigating the unplanned incident, in addition to organizations and states urging the federal government to be involved.

A Texas county sheriff's office on Monday announced it would investigate the unplanned transportation of Venezuelan migrants to Martha's Vineyard last week, according to reports.

According to CBS News, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office in Texas has launched a probe into the operation and told the outlet in a statement that around 50 Venezuelan migrants who'd been housed at a shelter in San Antonio were then transported to Florida and again to Martha’s Vineyard, located in Massachusetts.

"The Bexar County Sheriff's Office has opened an investigation into the migrants that were lured from the Migrant Resource Center, located in Bexar County, TX, and flown to Florida, where they were ultimately left to fend for themselves in Martha's Vineyard, MA," the office said in the statement.

According to the outlet, the transport of the migrants to Martha's Vineyard — which Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has taken credit for — resulted in local officials on the island scrambling to find shelter, food, and other necessary accommodations.

According to CBS, the plan to transport migrants to the island is part of a larger, long-term effort by some Republican governors as a response to how President Biden's handled the reported border arrests. Republican's negative responses to Biden sending migrants to Democratic-controlled states and cities for over a year has ultimately reignited the national debate over U.S. border policy. 

DeSantis has said he would continue sending migrants released from federal border custody to Democratic-led jurisdictions with "sanctuary" policies, limiting local cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to the outlet.

Massachusetts officials, the Biden administration, and Democrats have accused Florida of using the asylum-seekers’ desperation in a political stunt, according to the outlet. 

Because of this, some Democrats and advocates have encouraged the federal authorities to launch a criminal investigation into the incident, and the sheriff’s office says it is prepared to collaborate with federal authorities, per the outlet. 

In response to the investigation, Taryn Fenske, DeSantis' communications director, said in a statement to CBS, "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. 

"Unless the MA national guard has abandoned these individuals, they have been provided accommodations, sustenance, clothing and more options to succeed following their unfair enticement into the United States, unlike the 53 immigrants who died in a truck found abandoned in Bexar County this June," continued Fenske. 

Under operations authorized by Republican governors Greg Abbott and Doug Ducey, Texas and Arizona have sent roughly 13,000 migrants by bus to Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago, angering the cities' Democratic mayors, who have expressed concerns about their ability to accommodate the new arrivals.

On Friday, Massachusetts officials transported the Venezuelan asylum-seekers from Martha's Vineyard to Joint Base Cape Cod — a military installation on the U.S. mainland, according to the outlet. 

According to CBS, Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker converted this area into a temporary shelter for the migrants.

According to the outlet, the authorities said they were in communication with lawyers representing the affected migrants, referring to them as "victims,” saying their clients were misled by the people who transported them.

The attorneys shared that the migrants were originally told they were going to Boston, and a place with jobs and refugee services, according to the outlet. 

Over the weekend, Lawyers for Civil Rights — the Boston-based group representing migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard — also asked federal prosecutors to launch criminal investigations about the incident, according to the outlet. 

The group also reached out to the Massachusetts attorney general, and California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, made a similar request, urging the Justice Department to investigate whether migrants were targeted by state officials due to their national origin, as that would be a violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, according to CBS.

Related Stories