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 rich 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 after which “unceremoniously stranded” in Martha’s Vineyard despite being told they were headed to Boston to receive expedited work papers.
Rafael Eduardo, an undocumented immigrant from Venezuela, hugs one other immigrant Thursday outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Martha’s Vineyard.
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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 greater than political posturing to make some extent,” but he declined to call DeSantis or anyone else as a goal of the investigation.
“What infuriates me probably the most about this case is that here we’ve got 48 those who are already on hard times, right?” Salazar said. “They’re here legally in our country at that time; they’ve every right to be where they’re. And I think that they were preyed upon. Any person got here from out of state, preyed upon these people, lured them with guarantees of a greater life, which is what they were absolutely in search of.”
Hundreds of thousands have fled Venezuela in recent times, putting their lives at great risk to flee political turmoil, widespread violence, economic crises and shortages of food, medicine and other essential items.
Migrants, who arrived on a flight sent by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, gather with their belongings outside St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Martha’s Vineyard.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said that along with 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 got falsified addresses corresponding to “random homeless shelters” for his or her official paperwork, possibly to make it tougher for them to remain within the U.S.
Though they weren’t expecting the migrants last week, Martha’s Vineyard residents and officials quickly arranged temporary accommodations for the brand new arrivals. On Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that the boys, women and kids could be relocated to a Cape Cod military base that is best equipped to present them temporary shelter.