A Texas sheriff will investigate the flights arranged by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to transport dozens of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, allegedly after making false promises of work and other services.
Texas sheriff to investigate DeSantis flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard
“Additionally, we are working with private attorneys who are representing the victims, as well as advocacy organizations regarding this incident,” Sheriff Javier Salazar (D) said in a statement. “We are also preparing to work with any federal agencies that have concurrent jurisdiction, should the need arise.”
DeSantis surprised federal and state officials on Wednesday by sending migrants who recently crossed the US-Mexico border to the affluent Massachusetts resort island. The move is part of an ongoing campaign by DeSantis and other Republican governors in Texas and Arizona to send migrants to Democrat- heavy cities such as Washington, New York and Chicago to publicize soaring numbers of crossings this year on the southern border.
About 50 migrants — including men, women and children — boarded shuttle flights from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, with a brief stop in Florida. Many of them later told immigration attorneys and advocates that they were promised work and other benefits if they traveled to Massachusetts . That was not the case.
“They were promised a solution to several of their problems,” Salazar said Monday. “They were taken to Martha’s Vineyard, from what we can gather, for little more than a photo op, video op, and then they were unceremoniously stranded in Martha’s Vineyard.”
Requests for comment made late in the day to DeSantis’s communications office were not answered.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he spoke with the sheriff about his decision to investigate.
“Our thinking was early on if they were lured under false pretenses, it could be a crime,” Wolff said. “If you think about what smugglers do, it’s not much different.”
He said it wasn’t clear whether the recruiters could be connected to DeSantis, but, “if it turns out things were done wrong, he could be held responsible. He instigated it.”
Democrats and immigration advocates decried the incident as a political stunt; the White House slammed DeSantis and other Republican governors “using migrants as political pawns” as “shameful … reckless and just plain wrong.”
“There is a process that is in place. And what they are doing is illegal stunt, is a political stunt,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week. “And it’s really just disrespectful to humanity.”
Jean-Pierre referred questions about whether the Biden administration would take legal action to the Justice Department.
Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Lori Rozsa, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff and Maria Sacchetti contributed to this report.