A Texas law enforcement agency said Monday that it has opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political stunt involving the relocation of dozens of migrants from the Lone Star State to the wealthy Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard last week.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar was highly critical of the anti-immigrant operation, saying at a news conference Monday that the 48 people ― most of whom are from Venezuela ― were apparently “exploited and hoodwinked” into leaving a migrant resource center in his county by a hired scout, shuttled onto a flight to Florida and then “unceremoniously stranded” in Martha’s Vineyard despite being told they were headed to Boston to receive expedited work papers.
DeSantis, a Republican vying for reelection and possibly a 2024 presidential run, took credit for the stunt, saying Florida paid for the trip through a state program that funds migrant relocation.
Salazar, whose county includes San Antonio, slammed it as “nothing more than political posturing to make a point,” but he declined to name DeSantis or anyone else as a target of the investigation.
“What infuriates me the most about this case is that here we have 48 people that are already on hard times, right?” Salazar said. “They are here legally in our country at that point; they have every right to be where they are. And I believe that they were preyed upon. Somebody came from out of state, preyed upon these people, lured them with promises of a better life, which is what they were absolutely looking for.”
Millions have fled Venezuela in recent years, putting their lives at great risk to escape political turmoil, widespread violence, economic crises and shortages of food, medicine and other essential items.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said that in addition to the investigation, it’s cooperating with private attorneys who represent the migrants and with immigrant advocacy organizations, several of which have demanded a criminal probe of DeSantis’ actions.
One Boston immigration attorney assisting with the migrants’ cases, Rachel Self, said over the weekend that the migrants were given falsified addresses corresponding to “random homeless shelters” for their official paperwork, possibly to make it more difficult for them to stay in the U.S.
Though they weren’t expecting the migrants last week, Martha’s Vineyard residents and officials quickly arranged temporary accommodations for the new arrivals. On Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that the men, women and children would be relocated to a Cape Cod military base that is better equipped to give them temporary shelter.