Speed Reads

Law and Order

Texas sheriff opens criminal probe of DeSantis-led scheme to 'lure' migrants to Martha's Vineyard

Sheriff Javier Salazar of Bexar County, Texas, announced a criminal investigation Monday into the effort spearheaded by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to secretly fly 48 Venezuelan asylum-seekers from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard last week.

"What infuriates me most about this case is that here we have 48 people that are already on hard times, they are here legally in our country," Salazar said. "Somebody came from out of state, preyed upon these people, lured them with promises of a better life," then "unceremoniously stranded" them for "nothing more than political posturing" and a "photo op."

"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."

"Our thinking was early on if they were lured under false pretenses, it could be a crime," Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. "If you think about what smugglers do, it's not much different."

DeSantis told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday night the Venezuelan migrants "all signed consent forms to go" and were given "a packet that had a map of Martha's Vineyard" and contact numbers for aid organizations.

Journalist Judd Legum was given a copy of the brochure the migrants received, falsely promising cash, housing, and job placement.

DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said "immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County," and "Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected." (Florida has a vibrant Venezuelan migrant community, but perhaps no green pastures.)

Charlie Crist, DeSantis' Democratic challenger, called the flights an expensive "state-sponsored human trafficking scheme."

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller appeared to agree, and he roped in migrant-bus instigator Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) — like DeSantis, a Catholic. "To use migrants and refugees as pawns offends God, destroys society, and shows how low individuals can be for personal gains," García-Siller tweeted. "These tactics — buses — promote human trafficking."

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said "reports of Florida involvement in transporting migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard are disconcerting," adding that "any action to transport persons under false pretenses and leave them stranded with no assistance would be to diminish their human dignity and objectify them."