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The Power Play: An In-Depth Analysis of the Martha’s Vineyard Migrants

Aston Davies

After our nation has witnessed the illegal transportation of forty-nine Venezuelans that took advantage of their human and civil rights, it raises critical questions about our immigration policy and the method by which we accept migrants. The actions inflicted upon them violated their well-established civil and constitutional rights as well as Texas codes after the migrants were deceived and mislead by those on the ground in Texas, demonstrating politicians including DeSantis’s disregard for non-American life.

Rachel Self, a prominent immigration and criminal defense attorney based out of Boston, spoke with Humanitarian Weekly and claimed that the actions against the migrants “absolutely were criminal.” The Venezuelan migrants were victims of unlawful restraint when officials transported them without their consent and did so through deception, as none of the migrants understood where they would be arriving until mid-flight.

As twenty-two-year-old Eduardo recounted to the Texas Tribune, he was approached by a woman, Perla, and was offered a job in Boston in addition to two hundred dollars for his help in recruiting others to join him. Louis, a twenty-seven-year-old who spoke with Reuters, describes a similar experience after being offered assistance with work permits, English lessons, and support for ninety days. Unbeknownst to the migrants at this time, these fraudulent claims were made to deceive and mislead them in order to gather them together and transport them to a location where no help or assistance would be waiting.

The migrants were also victims of kidnapping under federal codes after they were unlawfully transported across state lines and the conspirators inveagled and deceived the migrants into doing something they wouldn’t have originally done. Therefore, it is understood “that these people would not have gone with her, and certainly wouldn’t have gotten on the planes if they had been advised of the truth that nothing would have been waiting for them when they landed” as Self explains. However, while it’s obvious that the migrants were scammed, the perpetrators of the transportation were all people that were aware of their actions and knew that the employment, housing, and educational opportunities they promised would never materialize.

Martha’s Vineyard Migrants
Martha’s Vineyard Migrants

Furthermore, the officials who worked for DeSantis in orchestrating this transportation provided their phone numbers to the migrants for assistance. Yet once they arrived at Martha’s Vineyard, the officials terminated all contact with the Venezuelans, leaving them without any help in a foreign area that was also unaware of the migrants’ arrival. These officials committed these actions with intent and deliberately deceived the migrants, disregarding the ethicality of their actions in addition to the damaging consequences for the migrants and their families.

After Rachel Self traveled to San Antonio to acquire the 918B certifications from Texas’s Bexar County sheriff Javier Salazar who claimed that the Martha’s Vineyard migrants were victims of criminal activity, it leads to opportunities for the migrants to legally obtain U.S. visas they would not have originally been eligible for.

However, apart from the Texas and federal codes that were violated, no one involved in this transportation had any consideration for the migrants’ human and civil rights protected by the constitution, regardless of their nationality or citizenship status. While undocumented immigrants have established rights because the Constitution refers to “people” or “person”, not “citizen”, they were deliberately violated after officials failed to provide accurate information, resources, and assistance.

While people have been quick to draw similarities to bussing immigrants to New York and Arizona, the difference lies in the fact that the migrants were deceived and lied in addition to never being told any information on where they were truly going. Furthermore, this transportation was not for the benefit of the migrants, but rather to prove a political point in the greater scheme of immigration policy, regardless of the damages caused as a consequence.

Now that each migrant has been connected to a pro-bono attorney with the help of Rachel Self and others, they have collectively filed a lawsuit against DeSantis with the representation of lawyers for civil rights on the grounds that their federal civil rights were violated after legally seeking asylum. The migrants claim that DeSantis and his co-conspirators violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Fourth Amendment, which is meant to protect people from unwanted searches and seizures was violated after officials deceived the migrants through false promises and lies in order to unreasonably seize them as they were transported across state lines. In addition, the complaint filed by the migrants states, “Defendants also took their actions in bad faith and with wanton indifference for the individual Plaintiffs’ well-being. Despite Plaintiffs’ obvious vulnerabilities,” after claiming that the defendants in the case violated their Fourteenth Amendments when they were denied their due process laws which must not prohibit any person from being deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” as given by the Constitution. The migrants also claim that they were denied equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment after they were subjected to unreasonable treatment on a basis of their national origins and documentation status. The migrants add additional claims that the perpetrators engaged in a conspiracy to deprive them of their civil rights. Through these allegations and the factual evidence shown in the complaint, it’s blatant the migrants were stripped of their human integrity and dignity by U.S. officials involved in the transportation.

Monika Langarica, an attorney for the Center of Immigration Law and Policy at UCLA, spoke with Humanitarian Weekly and detailed her perspective on the future of immigration policy and the prevention of these incidents that occurred in the transportation of the Venezuelan migrants. While she agrees that this was a blatant political stunt that took advantage of the migrants, she adds that in the wake of this transportation, “this is a pivotal moment for the federal government to address immigration and border policies that leave people vulnerable to such deception in the first place” and that at the same time, there is an urgent need for collaboration between states, counties, healthcare providers, shelters, and legal assistance in order to accept the migrants in a more humane way.

However, while shelter and humanitarian infrastructure are critical in resolving this issue Langarica elaborates on the significant need for the Biden Administration to end Title 42 and all policies that obstruct access to asylum at the border. Title 42 is a policy that has closed official ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, and subjects those who attempt to cross between ports of entry to rapid expulsions with no due process, leaving even those that seek asylum trapped in Mexican border cities, where they face violence and inhumane living conditions. Therefore, while migrants have a legal right to seek asylum in the U.S., enforcing Title 42 blocks migrants from exercising this right. While Title 42 is touted as a public health measure enacted during the Covid-19 pandemic, it only functions as a means to block migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S.

In May of 2022, the Biden Administration attempted to end Title 42, however, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, and other Republican-led states filed a lawsuit and won a court order blocking its termination and forcing its continuation. While the Biden Administration is currently appealing the decision to the Fifth Circuit of Appeals, it continues to use and expand the reach of Title 42, most recently against Venezuelans, forcing them, too, to be subject to the consequences of policies that deny due process and block access to protection to the most vulnerable.

In analyzing the transportation of the Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, it becomes clear that these actions not only violate Texas codes that were intended to prevent these incidents but more importantly the migrant’s human and civil rights that are enshrined in the Constitution. Following this incident, the urgency to reform our immigration policy becomes even clearer as a more humane way of accepting migrants is required.


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