Texas Sheriff Investigating DeSantis Flying Migrants to Martha’s Vineyard

More fallout from migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard. A Texas sheriff says he’s investigating whether any laws were broken as part of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) scheme to ship 48 Venezuelan migrants off to Martha’s Vineyard last week.

The migrants were recruited from a shelter in San Antonio, Texas, which is in Bexar County, and then flown to Florida, before ultimately landing in Massachusetts. They were reportedly told that they were going to Boston and that they could get expedited work papers there.

Instead, DeSantis sent them to the small island of Martha’s Vineyard and did not inform officials there that they were coming.

Now, 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,” the office announced Monday. “Additionally, we are working with private attorneys who are representing the victims, as well as advocacy organizations regarding this incident. We are also preparing to work with any federal agencies that have concurrent jurisdiction, should the need arise.”

At a Monday press conference, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said the “48 migrants were lured under false pretenses” and that they were “exploited and hoodwinked” for “nothing more than political posturing.”

“They were promised work, they were promised a solution to several of their problems,” said Salazar. “They were taken to Martha’s Vineyard, from what we can gather, for little more than a photo op, video op, and then they were unceremoniously stranded in Martha’s Vineyard.”

Salazar said they’re “very early in the investigation,” but “I believe there is some criminal activity involved here.”

The migrant move also has DeSantis facing questions from Florida lawmakers, who question whether he had the legal authority to fly people to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis said he paid for the flights with money earmarked by the state legislature to “facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law.”

But “state Democrats and others are questioning whether the flights were legal since they originated in Texas and not Florida,” reports Politico. “The law also specified that the flights should be used to transport ‘unauthorized aliens’—but lawyers speaking on behalf of the migrants say many who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard are seeking asylum, which puts them in a different category legally.”

In Martha’s Vineyard, a local church took the migrants in overnight, after which Massachusetts’ emergency management agency sent them to be housed at a military base in Cape Cod.

“All the immigrant families who would like to leave are being given the option to go to an equipped facility on Cape Cod where they will be met with wrap around services including health care, mental health, & crisis counseling services, immigration attorneys, & case management for housing & for providing educational opportunities for the children, Massachusetts state Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D–Martha’s Vineyard) tweeted last Friday.

Conservatives have inexplicably been making a big deal of the fact that authorities moved the migrants from Martha’s Vineyard to elsewhere in Massachusetts, as if this proves that nobody wants them or that allegedly liberal districts are full of hypocrites.

But Martha’s Vineyard is an isolated and relatively small community with little in the way of services, shelters, interpreters, mass transit, or employment opportunities. It’s far removed from immigration offices or courts where asylum seekers will need to make appointments.

It’s not cruel or hypocritical for Massachusetts leaders to realize the folks flown there would be better off elsewhere in the state—it’s practical and kind. Cruel would be forcing them to stay in a place not well-equipped to help them just because a Republican governor decided to ship them there.

There’s also no indication that the migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard wanted to stay there. They didn’t pick the island as their destination and are likely more than happy to go places where meeting immigration requirements and finding work will be easier. None of which says anything about the willingness of Massachusetts or Martha’s Vineyard to accept migrants and help them out.

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FOLLOWUP

The Pentagon is investigating pro-American propaganda on social media, amid White House concerns. Reason covered a new report about these accounts—and their lack of resonance—earlier this month. Now, “the Pentagon has ordered a sweeping audit of how it conducts warfare clandestine information after major social media companies identified and took offline fake accounts suspected of being run by the US military in violation of the platforms’ rules,” The Washington Post reports. “The US government’s use of ersatz social media accounts, though authorized by law and policy, has stirred controversy inside the Biden administration, with the White House pressing the Pentagon to clarify and justify its policies.”


FREE MINDS

The latest banned books report from PEN America is out:

See also: Reason‘s recent banned books theme issue.


FREE MARKETS

President Joe Biden inadvertently declares his student loan forgiveness program illegal. The president said over the weekend that the pandemic is now over—the same pandemic that’s being used to justify canceling a student loan debt. “When Biden announced his debt cancellation plan last month, administration lawyers cited the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students, or HEROES Act, of 2003, a post 9/11 law that ‘permits the Secretary of Education to waive or modify Federal student financial assistance Program requirements to help students and their families or academic institutions affected by a war, other military operation, or national emergency,” notes Reason‘s Peter Suderman:

The law was clearly intended as a vehicle to give the president the power to forgive student loan debt for individuals directly involved in fighting the war on terror. But in Biden’s revisionist citation, it became an all-purpose tool for mass debt forgiveness via executive action, premised on the argument that the COVID-19 pandemic was an ongoing national emergency.

The pandemic, in this formulation, gave Biden extraordinary powers—powers that under normal circumstances the president would not have.

It was an inherently dubious justification, given the novel and expansive reading of the HEROES Act. But Biden completely undercut it on a 60 Minutes interview this weekend when he declared, flatly, that “the pandemic is over.”


QUICK HITS

• Adnan Syed, who was convicted of a 1999 murder case that got chronicled by the popular podcast Serial, has been released from prison. “At the behest of prosecutors who had uncovered new evidence, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered that Syed’s conviction be vacated as she approved the release of the now-41-year-old who has spent more than two decades behind bars,” notes the Associated Press.

• “It will soon be illegal for California employers to let workers’ off-site and outside-of-work marijuana use be a factor in hiring or firing decisions, according to a new state law,” reports the Los Angeles Times. A new measure signed into law this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, says employers can’t discriminate against people who use marijuana “off the job and away from the workplace.”

Reason‘s Scott Shackford tackles a terrible ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Texas’ social media law. Other commentary:

• Virginia is a reversing course on the treatment of transgender students. The state “will no longer allow students to use facilities marked for the gender they identify with and will mandate that they file legal documents if they wish to be called by different pronouns,” reports The New York Times.

• Sex worker, author, and Reason contributor Maggie McNeill talks to writer Cathy Reisenwitz about “the ongoing Satanic Panic, human trafficking, sex work, White Feminism, Carceral Feminism, the infantilization of women, and what we should really be afraid of.”

• A Detroit police officer responding to a suicide call meant to shoot a dog and shot his colleague instead.

• The photo app BeReal—which prompts users to snap a quick pic at a particular (different) point each day—is spawning copycat functions on Instagram and TikTok.

• Russian trolls apparently targeted women’s March organizers back in 2017.

• An interesting thread from Ariel Sabar, author of Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, looks at how a hoax gospel about Jesus’ wife came to be accepted and spread. More than eight years after the article’s publication, the [Harvard Theological Review]… has yet to retract or correct it,” notes Sabar.

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