Texas sheriff opens investigation

Salazar said the migrants flown to the Vineyard were ‘hoodwinked,’ ‘exploited’

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Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said during a virtual press conference an investigation will be launched regarding the migrants sent to Martha's Vineyard.

A Texas sheriff announced Monday that his office will be launching a criminal investigation into the transportation of the Venezuelan migrants flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard as part of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ relocation program. 

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said that his office has obtained information indicating that the refugees had been approached by a Venezuelan migrant who’d allegedly been paid to “recruit” the others outside a Migrant Resource Center in San Antonio. He said the migrants were “lured under false pretenses” into a short hotel stay and subsequent flights, eventually arriving on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, Sept. 14. 

“[The migrants] were promised work [and] the solution to several other problems,” Salazar said, “for little more than a photo-op,” —referring to the video footage ordered by Gov. DeSantis and given exclusively to Fox News. He called it a stunt that is nothing more than “political posturing,” for “the sake of political theater.”

Salazar said the unexpected flight left the 48 migrants “unceremoniously stranded” as a result of being “preyed upon,” as they were promised a life with opportunities exceeding that of their current situations. 

The 49 Venezuelan migrants were in Texas legally,  Salazar emphasized, and “had every right to be where they [were].”

Salazar said he’s been in communication with non governmental organizations, immigration attorneys, and both local and national media outlets, in the investigative process. He said his office is prioritizing how to move forward, and to determine “what charges, if any, are going to apply and to whom.” 

Persons of interest in the case, although not directly named by Salazar, are indicated to include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who claimed responsibility for the flights Wednesday evening, following the migrants’ arrival on the Island, and associated entities and individuals, such as the woman — whom many of the refugees recall as “Perla” — who enticed the group to board the Vineyard bound flights allegedly with the promise of jobs and housing.

On Tuesday, Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston, on behalf of the migrants transported to the Vineyard and Chicago-based organization Alianza Americas, claiming the actions of DeSantis and associated parties have violated the due process clause of the 14th amendment; deeming the stunt “extreme and outrageous, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

The suit accuses DeSantis, Secretary of the Florida Transportation Department of Transportation Jared Perdue, and the State of Florida, of “taking advantage of vulnerable immigrants, inducing them to travel under false pretenses, and abandoning them without resources, targeting them for disparate treatment based on their race, national origin, and alienage, and using them as political props.”

The complaint argues that the individuals represented in the class action suit were “induced” by DeSantis and others, to “travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation,” resulting in severe emotional distress. 

Additionally, the promises of jobs and housing initially made by “Perla,” — allegedly by direction of the accused Florida officials — proves DeSantis and associated parties “had no intention of providing such benefits.”

The lawsuit argues that the funds used to transport the group – $12 million – were originally allocated toward COVID-19 relief via American Rescue Plan Act 2021 (ARPA), and therefore the use of said funds for DeSantis’ “relocation program” was unauthorized and illegal. 

In public comments, DeSantis said the migrants went voluntarily on the planes.

That prompted this response from Rachel Self, an immigration attorney who has been working with the migrants. “In response to the class action lawsuit we filed today, the governor is saying our clients consented and is producing yet another cartoonish document.  My response is this:  “The form may be titled “OFFICIAL CONSENT TO TRANSPORT.” But, obviously, saying something doesn’t make it so. Slapping a “fat free” label on a pound of butter won’t make it fat free, and snake oil doesn’t make your hair grow back.  The truth is in the contents. And nothing contained in this form, even if every migrant signed it fully understanding the Spanish text, makes it a consent to be flown to Martha’s Vineyard if they were told they were going somewhere else,” Self wrote in a text message. “The entire English text has not even been translated into Spanish. We all know what consent means in our daily lives. If someone asks if they can have a bite of your sandwich, you can say yes. If they then eat your entire sandwich – that is not what you consented to. Considering all the castles in the sky the migrants were sold before they boarded the plane – free housing, work authorization, jobs, – it wouldn’t be a consent even if every single one of them were fluent in English, too.” 

As for the criminal investigation, Salazar said his office cannot determine the existing statutes, if any, that may have been violated, but vehemently stated that “what was done to these folks is wrong. . . From a human rights perspective.”

In response to an inquiry by The Times  regarding whether United States Attorney Rachel Rollins will consider opening a criminal investigation, a spokesperson wrote in an email, “the USAO does not have any comment.” 

Rollins was quoted in a Boston Globe editorial stating that she is considering all options when it comes to a possible criminal investigation.

Kristen Setera from the Office of Public Affairs at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Boston Division told The Times that in keeping with DOJ policy, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

Meanwhile, immigration and civil rights attorneys have called on the U.S. Department of Justice and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate potential crimes.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey, Chloe Gotsis, told The Times in an email: “Our office continues to review all information relevant to this situation. We are in touch with our federal and state partners, along with attorneys representing the migrants, as we gather facts and evaluate all legal options.” 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Is this Democratic Sheriff going to investigate Biden for his late night flights out of Texas to destinations across the Unites States since January 2021?

    • Typical whatboutism.
      Did you ever take any civics courses in school? Do you know how the US government is structured? It seems not.
      The President has the authority to relocate migrants who enter the country. The governor of one state has no authority to relocate people in another state.
      Also, a county sheriff has no authority outside of the county he serves.

  2. I am always amazed at how republicans can complain that the Biden administration is not helping the border states by moving legal migrants to other states, and then complain that the Biden administration is moving legal migrants to other states.
    It seems to have something to do with the fact that the lying media nutcase celebrities they fawn over mention that most of the flights occur at night.
    That is likely true, because commercial flights are cheaper at 3 am than 3 pm.
    And really , why would that matter ?
    I would like a rational answer to that question.—– Ha! I am asking for a rational answer— good luck to me..!
    Every legal migrant that has been transported out of a border state to a blue sanctuary state or a red hate state for that matter, by sleepy Joe has been documented and local authorities have been notified as to when they will arrive.
    I also find it interesting that these same people , who obviously are suffering from “Biden derangement syndrome” are basically acknowledging that the trump administration never did squat to help out the border states by transporting legal migrants to sanctuary cities.
    Or anywhere else for that matter.
    It seems pretty clear that some people think the federal government only started this program in January of 2021. Shame on the trump administration for not helping out.
    I hope they have plenty of cheese to go along with that whine..

    • You expect a rational answer from these people? I admire your optimism.
      The MAGA crowd is the antithesis of rational. If they were capable of reason and rational thinking they would not be MAGAs.

    • I guess I got about as rational of an answer to my question as I can get from the MAGA crowd.
      Diversion, whataboutism, and don’t blame me.

  3. Liberal noise. I remember there was 4 years of “Trump derangement syndrome” also. Remember??

    I don’t vote all democrat or republican. I vote for the best candidate. I probably throughout my life voted equally for both.

  4. I can’t believe my eyes, and I am outraged when I read this article:
    “…launching a criminal investigation into the transportation of the Venezuelan migrants flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard…”
    “…refugees had been approached by a Venezuelan migrant who’d allegedly been paid to “recruit” the others outside a Migrant Resource Center in San Antonio. He said the migrants were “lured under false pretenses” into a short hotel stay and subsequent flights, eventually arriving on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, Sept. 14…. ”
    “…[The migrants] were promised work [and] the solution to several other problems,” Salazar said, “for little more than a photo-op,” —referring to the video footage ordered by Gov. DeSantis and given exclusively to Fox News. He called it a stunt that is nothing more than “political posturing,” for “the sake of political theater….” Really???
    “…Salazar said the unexpected flight left the 48 migrants “unceremoniously stranded” as a result of being “preyed upon,” as they were promised a life with opportunities exceeding that of their current situations…” Really??
    “…The 49 Venezuelan migrants were in Texas legally, Salazar emphasized, and “had every right to be where they [were]…” But would they have preferred to stay there??
    …“Perla” — who enticed the group to board the Vineyard bound flights allegedly with the promise of jobs and housing…” Perla is my new HERO for what she did to help these poor people.
    “…deeming the stunt “extreme and outrageous, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” Whaaat??
    “…taking advantage of vulnerable immigrants, inducing them to travel under false pretenses, and abandoning them without resources, targeting them for disparate treatment based on their race, national origin, and alienage, and using them as political props….” Whaaat???
    “…travel across state lines by fraud and misrepresentation,” resulting in severe emotional distress…” I wonder, what was the source of their severe emotional distress??
    “…funds used to transport the group – $12 million…” WHAAAT??? WHY?? HOW??
    The immigration lawyer, Rachel Self, said this:”…Considering all the castles in the sky the migrants were sold before they boarded the plane – free housing, work authorization, jobs, – it wouldn’t be a consent even if every single one of them were fluent in English, too.” But actually, Perla et al knew that this is exactly they would get up north.
    “…DeSantis said the migrants went voluntarily on the planes…” Yes, and wouldn’t you?
    “…what was done to these folks is wrong. . . From a human rights perspective…” Really??
    It seems that people are just going increasingly insane and blind to plight of others.

    • Enlighten us as to the “plight of others.” Who is suffering? What are the effects of this so-called crisis? How does it manifest itself? Surely their physical presence alone isn’t the issue.

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