Ron DeSantis dropping migrants off on Martha's Vineyard may be illegal – an immigration lawyer explains why

The unexpected arrival of approximately 50 Colombian and Venezuelan migrants on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, on Sept. 14, 2022, has prompted legal questions about how and why, exactly, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis chartered planes to drop them in this unlikely destination.

The move is part of a broader campaign by Republican politicians to transport large numbers of migrants to liberal states and cities.

Since then, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has activated 125 National Guard members to help distribute food and other necessities to the migrants, now living at a Cape Cod military base.

And a Texas county sheriff announced Sept. 20 that he was launching an investigation into allegations that a Venezuelan migrant was paid to recruit the other migrants for the trip. Lawyers for 30 of the migrants have been asking for a legal investigation into what they call a “political stunt.”

Many of the migrants said they were falsely promised housing, jobs and expedited work permits if they boarded planes in Texas set for Massachusetts – a likely preferred alternative to the San Antonio shelter where they were temporarily staying.

As an immigration law professor, I think it is important to understand that the answer to whether it is legal to move migrants potentially against their will and transport them across states is complicated and depends on several unknown factors.