A year after political stunt flights to Martha s Vineyard migrants and legal action moving forward

Volunteers and Venezuelan migrants gather at St. Andrew’s Parish House in Edgartown, Massachusetts, in September 2022. The migrants arrived in the area the night before after being flown from San Antonio and dropped off unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard, causing the local community to mobilize and create a makeshift shelter at the church. Credit: Credit: Carlin Stieh For The Boston Globe via Getty Images One year after 49 migrants were flown from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, investigations into those believed to have organized what has been called a political stunt have concluded and will move forward in the coming weeksDays after the flights in September 2022, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar opened an investigation into whether the people who “lured” migrants onto planes to the Massachusetts island did so “under false pretenses” in San Antonio.


After the investigation concluded, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office filed criminal charges against two female suspects who face 49 counts of unlawful restraint. On May 15, the case was sent to the Bexar County District Attorney’s OfficeThe DA’s office will next present the case to a grand jury, which will evaluate charges and evidence, but the office did not confirm when the case will move forward Those people were in Bexar County legally at that point,” Salazar said of the migrants. Florida Gov. Ron “DeSantis’ administration, I believe, saw that as an opportunity to make a statement with these folks, and they thought they were not going to be held accountable for it Migrants interviewed by the San Antonio Report last year said they took the opportunity because they were desperate to get to their host cities but had no resources to get there and had to sleep on the streets


Some migrants in similar situations stood outside the San Antonio Migrant Resource Center (MRC) on Thursday with either no money to get a plane ticket to their host city or had cash in hand but no debit cards to book the ticketSince early September, migrants by the thousands have made unauthorized crossings into the United States at the southwest border and voluntarily surrendered themselves to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The agency releases the migrants within days, with some obtaining permission to remain in the United States legally while they go through the asylum processMost migrants at the MRC on Thursday were from Venezuela, Peru and Haiti and had just arrived in San Antonio hours before. They said they had heard from other migrants making the same journey in Mexico that migrants can cross into the United States until Sept. 18



spread very strongly that El Paso was open,” said Felipe, a Venezuelan migrant. He left Chile seven months ago and had been working in Monterrey for the past two months, waiting for his CBP One appointment, where he had planned to claim asylum. “When we heard the news, in a rush, we grabbed our bags and got on the trainThey waited for the CBP One appointment for 20 days, Felipe said, until he and his son had only $30 left and began fearing for their safetyMany said the same: Desperation comes from months of waiting for their CBP One appointments in Mexico, where they say they had no shelter and ran the risk of being assaulted or kidnapped by smugglers or cartelsCatholic Charities of San Antonio, which runs the MRC, would not confirm whether the building was at full capacity, but migrants outside on Thursday said there were too many people to be inside the building. Inside the gates of the property, migrants sat on benches and chairs outside. Those with phones were Facetiming and calling loved ones to tell them they made it to the United States.


CBP would not confirm the number of migrants who have crossed since September. The city’s online migrant dashboard on Saturday showed 18,945 migrants have arrived in San Antonio this month, including 739 Friday, the most recent data postedAt the San Antonio Migrant Resource Center, most migrants are unaware of what documents they were given or under what process they entered the United States. Some have GPS monitoring devices like ankle monitors and cellphones to report to CBP. Most say “turning yourself in” at the border is “by luck,” referring to the fear of being sent back from Mexico to the Guatemalan border. If they’re lucky, they say, they’re let in and given permission to remain in the United States until their court dateOn Thursday, some said their court date after their initial appearance wasn’t until 2026


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week expanded Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans who were in the United States as of July 31. Homeland security officials estimate that roughly 472,000 more people will now be eligible for work permitsAlejandro Mayorkas, U.S. secretary of homeland security, determined the expansion based on Venezuela’s increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political, and environmental conditions, DHS said in a statementAmid the current influx of migrants into the United States, concern is rising that the situation is ripe for a reprise of the Martha’s Vineyard flightsIn August 2022, the BCSO sent public service announcements to Central and South America, asking migrants not to come to the United States. Salazar also hosted an immigration town hall meeting in Spanish to warn people not to put their lives in the hands of human smugglers and strangers

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