Texas sheriff calls for charges over 2022 migrant flight

Island attorney says there’s copious amounts of evidence to bring charges.

The Bexar County Sheriff's Office announced this week that a criminal case has been filed in connection with the nearly 50 Venezuelan and Peruvian refugees sent transported to the Vineyard in September. —MV Times

The Texas sheriff who launched an investigation into the transportation of nearly 50 refugees from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in September has announced that his office is recommending criminal charges.

“The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office has officially filed a completed criminal case with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office regarding the incident from September 2022 where 49 migrants were flown to Martha’s Vineyard,” said a statement sent to The Times by the sheriff’s office this week. “The charge filed is unlawful restraint, and several accounts were filed, both misdemeanor and felony.”

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar first announced that his office would be investigating the flight at a press conference on Sept. 19, less than a week after two planes carrying 49 Venezuelan and Peruvian migrants landed unexpectedly at Martha’s Vineyard Airport. 

The flights took off from San Antonio, Texas, and stopped in Florida and the Carolinas before reaching their final destination at Martha’s Vineyard. 

Shortly after, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed responsibility for the flights, as part of a state-funded immigration relocation program.

It’s assumed that the recent flights transporting South American asylum seekers from El Paso to Sacramento were also part of that program, although DeSantis, who recently announced his bid for the 2024 presidential race, has yet to confirm that. 

The Vineyard flights were largely considered a political stunt, prompting a handful of lawsuits against DeSantis on behalf of the group of refugees. 

At that time, Sheriff Salazar had said he’d been in communication with nongovernmental organizations, immigration attorneys, and both local and national media outlets, in the investigative process. He said his office was prioritizing how to move forward, and to determine “what charges, if any, are going to apply and to whom.” 

In addition to DeSantis, possible suspects — although not directly named by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office — could potentially include Florida public safety “czar” Lawrence Keefe, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ chief of staff James Uthmeier, the Florida Department of Transportation and its secretary Jared Perdue, transport company Vertol Systems and its president James Montgomerie, and the state of Florida, along with the woman who allegedly enticed the group of migrants to board the Vineyard-bound flights with the promise of jobs and housing. 

That woman has since been identified as Perla Huerta, a U.S. Army veteran who served as a counterintelligence specialist and combat medic.

However, it is not yet known who or what entities or individuals are named in the criminal case filed by Bexar County.

“At this time, we are not naming suspects in this case,” Bexar County officials said. “However, when an update becomes available, we will provide that information to the public.”

The case is now being reviewed by the Bexar County district attorney’s office, who will determine whether to move forward with the charges.

Island resident and immigration attorney Rachel Self, who’s been involved with the migrants’ legal journey since the day of their arrival, and has worked closely with Salazar throughout the investigation, expressed her full support of the sheriff and his recent action. 

“I am deeply grateful to Sheriff Salazar and his incredible team for launching and conducting such a vigorous and thorough investigation of the criminal acts that occurred in San Antonio in September,” Self told The Times in a statement this week. “He did so not out of any political sentiment, but because he felt strongly that he could not allow vulnerable human beings under his protection to be hunted and victimized. The case he has presented is extremely strong.”

“There is copious evidence, including text messages from Florida authorities, contracts with vendors, accounts from the migrants themselves, and other probable cause that this was a criminal scheme to trick people into getting on a plane with false promises, with the intention to transport them across state lines. No one can consent to being a victim of a crime.”

“These are bullies,” she continued. “Pure and simple. Someone must stand up to the bullies and be the voice for the voiceless.”


  1. How can an illegal be bullied into coming to MV? Lets call them asylum seekers and can they be bullied into coming to this paradise island. Dont think so. This lawsuit wont get anywhere.

    • andy– just so you know, my first reply to your comment failed to pass the moderator.

      But– they were not “illegals” no matter how many times you say it, they were in this country LEGALLY ! Why does it seem impossible for you to absorb that fact ?
      Sometimes one just has to face up to reality, no matter how hard it is to handle.
      Let me demonstrate– Joe Biden stumbles over words, falls down and occasionally seems lost.
      THERE– I admit it, because it’s the truth. I see it– I hear it– there is no denying it. !
      Now your turn– You can do it — type it slowwwwly — t h e y a r e i n t h is c o u nt r y
      l e g a l l y ….
      But, I am encouraged. Based on the accuracy rate of your past predictions, in that you seem certain this lawsuit “wont get anywhere” , it’s a slam dunk for any first year law student.
      DeSanctimonious and trump would make great cell mates.
      Let’s not forget that federal money was misappropriated for this stunt. Lots of it ….
      My taxpayer dollars that I worked hard for to give to the federal government so they could save lives during the pandemic.
      Or is that fact also too difficult for you to acknowledge ?

      • The folks in question were not necessarily here legally, although they may have used a federal statute which authorized them to be here PROVIDED they were truthful about why they failed/refused to use the normal immigration process. I know the following to be 100 percent true: Many NGOs counsel migrants how to answer the questions “correctly” so the magic door opens to the magic kingdom. And to deny this is as cynical as it gets.

        • John–Are you saying these people lied ?
          I had no idea all these people are republicans.
          What happened to the narrative that they were all going to vote democrat ?
          Yes– let me be direct– the republican party is the party of liars.
          I’m not saying ALL republicans are liars, but just look at the leadership.

  2. You are unaware of the details. They were tricked, mislead, lied to in SanAntonio and promised work. Set up, by Fl Gov DeSantis @ a cost of $760k of Fl fax payers money. 2 jets, small enought to ,and on MV, carrying people who did not know where they were landing.,MV and the state of MA handled this awful situation ( awful for the trafficked people). They arrived suddenly, were graciously greeted my MV residents, fed, housed, entertained and befriended. After 42 hrs that it too ro organize a plan, the people were moved to NA m as inland, Otis airforce based, processed, taken care of, interviewed and up till now all are Working, settled with a bright future. That was not what Gov DeSantis expected and was made a fool of – hard to do to a mean ugly man.

      • That’s exactly the way it happened. If you’d been around at the time, or if you’d been following the news reports, you’d know it. Martha’s Vineyard did itself proud in a totally unexpected situation.

  3. Would someone please kidnap me and 20 of my friends and send us to a resort Island? We promise we won’t sue you!

    • Mark. You don’t need to be kidnapped.
      Just let someone book you a one way ticket to some island you never knew existed where you don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language and no one knows you are coming. Cancel your credit cards, put $20 in your pocket, fill your one backpack with some t shirts and shorts and
      take 20 of your friends with you (please) . Good luck

  4. Mr Engleman, check your facts before you “report “ fake news! The Venezuelans were NOT illegal! They had their papers and court dates until Governors Abbot and de Santis tried to thwart their plans by sending them here.

  5. Andy, nobody said they were bullied into coming here. What was said was the people who arranged this were bullies. They were however lied to. They were told they were going to Boston where there was work and housing waiting for them. Do you really think they would have gone if they were told the truth? “Hey everyone, get on this plane heading north where there is nothing waiting for you, but you’ll be part of a political stunt perpetrated by a man trying to appeal to a bunch of people lacking in smarts.” As for this suit not getting far, well we all know how your past predictions have worked out…

  6. The lawyers win again. What a waste of time and resources. They would be better off going after the Bidum administration for failure to secure the border.

      • Yeah you raise the price of say milk from 3 dollars to 5 dollars for 2 years and then last month you lower the price to 4.50. We are so happy for the decrease.

        • andy– It doesn’t really matter how high the numbers got under trumps failed immigration policies. The point is that they dropped dramatically as soon as the trump era rules were rescinded.
          Up until last month the immigration service was following the law that trump put in place. trump didn’t abide by it. Biden did.
          Biden was following the law. I Know it’s painful for you and your ilk to think that government agencies have to follow the law, but that is what was happening. The Biden administration abided by the law. trump didn’t, he just signed it in for political red meat from his racist cult members. Remember title 42 was put in place by the desire to keep the “dirty” ( Tucker Carlson’s term for immigrants) and diseased immigrants from bringing an imaginary disease into the country. As soon as it was over, immigration dropped dramatically. If you want to blame something for the high price of “milk” over the last few years, look no further than the legal restrictions placed on Biden by trump.

          • Jerome — since you are curious ;
            For news , mostly BBC, CNN, NPR, Huff post Ny Times, Time magazine and various sources that come up on line tangentially.
            For opinions, mostly MSNBC, Fox, WXTK , infowars The Young Turks, the daily show, and various sources that come up on line tangentially.
            And yes, I know who “the 5” are and who hosts “Fox and friends” I occasionally listen to Ed Lambert, Clay Travis and Buck sexton and of course, everybody’s favorite– HOWIE — I especially like the chump line, and he mentioned me on his show once after I made the front page of the MV times in an article about my drivers license.
            I would also guess that I likely know the names, faces,position held and stance on issues of more politicians, federal appointees and various federal bureaucrats than most people.
            Is that well rounded enough for you ?

            How about you ?
            My condolences on the death of Pat Robertson.

    • Should they go after Trumpdum for failing to secure the border?
      Oh, the joy middle school playground name calling!

  7. Engelman, you’ve written at length in these pages about how you got out of Russia to end up in this country. Not sure how you now can consider migrants/refugees, including children and their parents who were tricked and promised jobs and housing, as “illegal” human beings. This is another example of supposed pro-lifers not being pro-life at all. Victimization of vulnerable humans is just fine and dandy with the religious right now. It’s deplorable what excuses are made for inhumanity.

    • Jackie– according to andy, he got out of the Soviet Union, Latvia specifically, not Russia.
      The rest of your comment is right on the money.

    • Ms. Mendez, I agree with you completely on the anti semitic cartoon issue, but on this one you are mixing immigration and abortion and you refuse to believe that the Venezuelans did not get their papers and court dates before leaving Venezuela. They came to the border illegally.
      As for me I was stateless; a displaced person and got citizenship after waiting 19 years. On a few things you are brilliant but then…… oh well.

      • Andy, what’s your source that the Venezuelans got their papers and court dates before leaving Venezuela? You can do it Andy, back up your claims just once for us.

        • Donovan read carefully above. I said they did not get their papers and court dates before they left Venezuela. They came here illegally and then got their papers afterwards. Sheeesh

  8. Being bullied does not depend on immigration status.
    They weren’t just bullied, they were lied to.
    It’s a Florida Man thing.

  9. What about the thousands that are bused and flown to other states by the Biden administration everyday?

    • good point John-They are part of a congressionally authorized program that transports people away from border states and takes them to places where they have family, friends, and sponsors that are ready and able to help them.
      I have been through the process of sponsoring someone– it is very demanding and they really want to know everything about you.
      So What about that program ?
      What exactly do you object to ?
      The federal government helping out border states ?
      Financially solvent people wanting to get a family member out of an impoverished, corrupt and violent country ?
      Do you object to the federal government arranging these busses and flights in advance and booking them at times when they are cheaper (under cover of darkness for instance –I.E midnight to 4 am when rates are cheapest ?
      Do you object to the fact that the people who are transported by the federal government actually know where they are going, and will be met by someone who cares about them rather than just being dumped on the street ?
      Or do you actually like the idea that the governor of a non border state can misappropriate
      1.5 million dollars of your tax dollars($35,000 per person ) and dump people in a place and expect local agencies to take care of them ?
      What about it John ?
      You tell me .

        • Jim– I won’t bet against you.
          Note that as of june 11, I have posted numerous verifiable facts with some credible sources in replies to both John and andy concerning this topic.
          They just deny the facts and parrot right wing talking points.
          I would love it if either of them could post something real enough to at least have a rational debate.
          The constant un and misinformed drivel gets tiring sometimes.

      • Absolutely untrue what Keller says. The Biden busing program sends them to cities and the ”friends and family” narrative makes up 1 percent. They are simply sending them to cities he thinks can integrate them. Shipping at night because it is cheaper is a laughable rationale. He is shipping at night to lessen knowledge about the actions.

        • Lots of people and organizations are helping migrants in NYC, Katherine. FEMA will be helping, too. It’s not a joke and nothing to sneer at. You scoffed last week at the mention of the reality of antisemitism on the island, and now you’re ignoring all those in NYC doing their best to step up to this crisis BECAUSE THEY CARE. The only thing worse than doing nothing to help others, is to deny the reality—this week by pretending that there are not many in NYC who do step up in a crisis and yes, greet asylum seekers. You don’t seem to know what you are talking about, 2 weeks in a row now. Not knowing is fine for you, I guess, but don’t sneer at what you don’t know.

        • Katherine– In case you didn’t bother to look at the link I provided , as you won’t read all the “lies” that “fake news sources,” “corrupt” government agencies and the “woke” people who actually run these programs provide ;
          “The vast majority of people on the flights are unaccompanied minors who crossed the border, requested asylum under immigration law, and are being released from federal custody to a parent or sponsor.”
          Of course,
          Not everyone has the luxury to be greeted by a loved one at the end of a long and dangerous journey out of hell. But note the terms “vast majority” “unaccompanied minors” and “under immigration law”.
          You don’t have to read anything that may disagree with your “agenda” and do your best to discredit anyone or anything that challenges that “virtue signaling” narrative.
          I look forward to some personal attacks on myself or my sources rather than anything verifiable about the resettlement program that the federal government legally, openly and compassionately operates,(ouch– cover your eyes when you read that word) and has been for 43 years under 7 administrations.
          Yeah. you and andy have every right to remain willfully ignorant.

          No problem.
          But that doesn’t change the facts. Not even the “alternative” ones.

          • keller, we just read and listen to other sources than yours and we are manifestly intelligent as our life career testifies. lol. Always learning but never coming to the knowledge of truth is the narrative for many on MV.

          • Don:
            I read the newspaper.
            “Sanctuary cities” are finding that they cannot handle the number of migrants who are being sent to them. This has been widely reported.

            Of course, towns in Texas also cannot handle them.

          • Don: I believe this thread is specifically about the Venezuelans who came to Martha’s Vineyard.

          • andy– I have worked in a day care facility, with mentally handicapped adults, troubled teenagers and autistic children. I am also a navy veteran.
            After moving to the Vineyard I took up construction and was in a partnership with one of the islands larger construction companies within 7 years of knowing nothing about construction. before starting my own company . I built my house myself, and have a guest house which I rent out year round and affordably.
            I can look back at my life and be very proud of it.
            You sold poison.
            I know the difference between knowledge and wisdom;
            Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit– wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

      • Same as everyone’s…the internet, where nothing is ever distorted and everything is TRUE!

  10. Keller, so all these illegals are unaccompanied minors being sent to family and friends–thousands of them are all kids without parents. Do you really expect us to believe that.? As for your refugee link, it is talking about refugees who can demonstrate persecution by their home country. Not people who simply want better place to live.

  11. When DeSantis’s stunt first happened, it was alleged that agents involved falsified the contact information of the group bound for MV.

    This is, in my opinion, an especially important point that largely became lost in the online chaos that followed.

    DeSantis & co. claim to value and promote legal immigration, yet with that single action, they undermined the most basic part of the process. If we want things to be orderly, it has to start at the top. Our own people have to adhere to the rules, including the collection of real addresses and phone numbers whenever possible. Otherwise it’s just useless paperwork and the process falls apart.

  12. Katherine– of course. NIMBY is alive and well with nearly any issue.
    In the case of Orange county, it is 78.7 % while, with a median income of $85,640.
    In the case of Rockland county, it is 78% while, with a median income of $99,707

    We’re not really surprised if those counties what to keep immigrants out are we ?

    Do you know what a “sanctuary city” is ?

    Just in case you don’t :

  13. So Eric Adams is busing them to nearby other counties but DeSantis cant fly them to another county. Get em outta here moans Adams.

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