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Texas sheriff launches probe into migrant flights

September 20, 2022

Dozens of Venezuelans were taken from Texas to an island off the Massachusetts coast. The details of the flight arrangements, supported by right-wing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, are now under investigation.

Migrants receiving care from a church in Martha's Vineyard
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church sheltered the migrants after they arrived in Martha's Vineyard by surpriseImage: Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette/picture alliance

A Texas sheriff on Monday opened a criminal investigation into flights of migrants sent thousands of miles to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Florida governor Ron DeSantis took credit for sending the 48 Venezuelans on private planes from the Texas city of San Antonio last week. 

The White House has since called the move a political stunt.

Migrants 'lured under false pretenses'

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, who is an elected Democrat, said at a news conference on Monday that the migrants were "lured under false pretenses" on the streets of San Antonio, in order to be "stranded unceremoniously in Martha's Vineyard," a wealthy vacation island, "for nothing other than a photo op." 

According to him, investigators so far have only spoken to attorneys representing a number of the Venezuelans. No potential suspects have yet been named.

"I believe there is some criminal activity involved here,'' Salazar said. "But at present we are trying to keep an open mind and we are going to investigate to find out what exact laws were broken if that does turn out to be the case.''

'An opportunity to seek greener pastures', says Florida's Governor DeSantis 

DeSantis's office issued a statement saying that the Venezuelans would be given more opportunities in Massachusetts.

"Immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, homeless, and left to fend for themselves,'' DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said. 

"Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected.''

Details of flight arrangement still unclear

Details of the flight arrangement and payment remain unclear to this point, but a lawyer stated that a recruiter approached the migrants at a city-run shelter in San Antonio and promised them three months of housing in major metropolitan areas such as Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston as well as employment opportunities. 

Further Democrats have urged the Justice Department to investigate the flights. 

los/wd (AP, Reuters)