Texas Sheriff investigates migrant escape to Martha’s Vineyard
Texas authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the shipping of nearly 50 migrants by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis from Texas to Florida for Martha’s Vineyard last week.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether the migrants, mostly from Venezuela, were victims of crimes, Sheriff Javier Salazar said Monday.
Salazar said the migrants were “lured” to board flights from San Antonio in Bexar County with false promises of employment and opportunities, when in reality, he said, they were being used as political pawns.
“Someone came from out of state, preyed on these people, lured them with promises of a better life,” Salazar said a news briefing.
A migrant who had been paid a “bird dog fee” recruited the Venezuelans under false pretenses at a migrant resource center in Texas. The 48 recruited migrants were then housed in a hotel for a few days before being flown first to Florida and then to the winery for “little more than a photo and video appointment,” the sheriff said.
Salazar — who didn’t name DeSantis — said the migrants “were taken advantage of and duped to make this trip to Florida and then on to Martha’s Vineyard because I think it’s little more than political posturing, um.” to make a point”.
The DeSantis office communications director fired back at Salazar’s allegations.
“Immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, made homeless and ‘left to their own devices,'” Taryn Fenske said in a statement. “Florida gave them the opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary that, as expected, offered them more resources.”
Salazar said the migrants were “left to their own devices” on the small Massachusetts island, but the DeSantis office denied the claim.
“When the MA National Guard did not fail these individuals, they were provided with housing, food, clothing and more options to succeed after their unfair lure to the United States, unlike the 53 immigrants who died in died in a truck found abandoned in Bexar County this June,” Fenske said.
During the press conference, Salazar said the migrants had legal status in the US — after presenting themselves to American authorities and applying for asylum — but they were still being targeted and allegedly exploited.
“When you play with people’s lives, people who have every right to be here, it bothers me a lot,” he said.
“These people were here legally. They have been documented,” he added. “They had the right to roam the streets freely and not be transported across the country to make it a media event. This is a tragedy.”
DeSantis said the two flights are part of Florida’s program to relocate migrants from Florida to cities of refuge, despite Salazar’s claims that the migrants were from Texas.