Were Migrants Unlawfully Restrained on Free Flights to Martha’s Vineyard?
Was it “unlawful restraint” to provide migrants free flights to Martha’s Vineyard? Some immigration attorneys think so, and a Texas sheriff obliged by certifying the group as victims of a crime. If this legal gambit stands, it will be a blatant abuse of the federal “U Visa” program.
For starters, unlawful restraint involves one person knowingly and intentionally restraining another without legal justification or without the consent of the person who is restrained. All aliens who accepted free rides did so voluntarily and signed a waiver to that effect.
Besides, as the Washington Times recently noted, the Biden administration is busing and flying aliens north of the border at a much more prodigious rate than either Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Bexar County (Texas) Sheriff Javier Salazar’s certification that the 49 migrants who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard were victims of a crime is a travesty,” says Matt O’Brien, director of investigations at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). “He is knowingly engaging in a violation of 18 U.S. Code Section 1001 by making a materially false statement to the Department of Homeland Security.”
Calling his own action into question, Salazar repeatedly stated he was unsure that any crime had been committed. By launching a criminal case without probable cause, the sheriff is signaling that his move is more political than constitutional.
Additionally, it is unclear that the migrants even qualify for U visas, available to certain crime victims who have suffered mental or physical abuse, and who aid officials in pursuing criminal activity. The visas are designed to assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking offenses against non-citizens, and to protect victims who suffered substantially as a result of the crime.
In the Martha’s Vineyard case, a claim that aliens who were flown to a Massachusetts resort community on a charter plane and received red-carpet treatment upon arrival somehow suffered substantial mental or physical abuse is beyond risible. It makes a mockery of the horrors suffered by bona fide trafficking victims.
“Assertions that the migrants were somehow duped or lured into accepting transport northward are patently offensive,” O’Brien says. “Attorneys and groups representing border jumpers have the hypocritical habit of alternately portraying aliens as either hapless and totally without agency, or smarter and more industrious than Americans. The fact is that people who planned and executed a 2,000-mile journey from their homelands were astute enough to accept a free flight closer to their intended destination.”
If the Hail Mary somehow succeeds, Jessica Vaughan, of the Center for Immigration Studies, will chalk it up as yet another abuse of U Visas, and one more reason “Congress needs to overhaul the program at the earliest opportunity.”