Texas authorities have opened a criminal investigation into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ shipment of nearly 50 migrants from Texas to Florida to Martha’s Vineyard last week.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is probing whether the migrants, primarily 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 opportunity when in reality, he said, they were used as political pawns.
“Somebody came from out of state, preyed upon these people, lured them with promises of better life,” Salazar said at a news briefing.
A migrant who had been paid a “bird-dog fee” recruited the Venezuelans from a migrant resource center in Texas under false pretenses. The 48 migrants who were recruited were then hosted in a hotel for a few days before they were flown first to Florida and then to the Vineyard for “little more than a photo and video op,” the sheriff said.
Salazar — who didn’t name DeSantis — said the migrants were “exploited and hoodwinked into making this trip to Florida and then onward to Martha’s Vineyard for what I believe to be little more than political posturing to make a point.”
The communications director for DeSantis’ office fired back at Salazar’s accusations.
“Immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, homeless, and ‘left to fend for themselves,’” Taryn Fenske said in a statement. “Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as expected.”
Salazar said the migrants were “left to fend for themselves” on the small Massachusetts island, but DeSantis’ office disputed the claim.
“Unless the MA national guard has abandoned these individuals, they have been provided accommodations, sustenance, clothing and more options to succeed following their unfair enticement into the United States, unlike the 53 immigrants who died in a truck found abandoned in Bexar County this June,” Fenske said.
During the press conference, Salazar said the migrants have legal status in the US — after presenting themselves to American authorities and seeking asylum status — yet they were still targeted and allegedly exploited.
“When you’re playing with human lives, people that have every right to be here, that does tend to bother me quite a bit,” he said.
“These people were here legally. They were documented,” he added. “They had the right to walk around the streets free and not be transported across the country for it to be a media event. That’s a tragedy.”