Texas Sheriff Says Office Will Launch Investigation Into Migrants Taken to Martha's Vineyard

A Texas sheriff announced on Monday, September 19, that his office will open an investigation into the transportation of Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Florida and, eventually, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar’s announcement was made in response to a group of migrants arriving unexpectedly in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, September 14.

A representative for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told Fox News on September 14 that the relocation of the migrants was "part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”

During the press briefing, Salazar said a Venezuelan migrant was paid to “lure” 48 migrants into traveling to Martha’s Vineyard by promising them work and the “solution to several other problems.”

“They were taken to Martha’s Vineyard, from what we can gather, for little more than a video opp, and then they were unceremoniously stranded in Martha’s Vineyard,” Salazar said.

Salazar said the migrants were “here legally,” and he has been speaking with a non-governmental organization and an attorney involved in representing the migrants.

DeSantis defended the relocation of the migrants during an interview with Fox News on Monday, September 19, saying, “It was clearly voluntary, and all the other nonsense you’re hearing is just not true.” Credit: Bexar County Sheriff’s Office via Storyful

Video transcript

JAVIER SALAZAR: Good afternoon. Thank you all so much for joining us. I'm Sheriff Javier Salazar with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office. We wanted to call this conference to answer I guess just a bunch of questions we've been getting throughout the day in piecemeal fashion. We're just go ahead and clear the air for everyone.

We are opening up a case with an investigation with regard to the suspected activities involving the 48 migrants from Venezuela that, as we understand it at this point, the facts of the case at this point, are that on Wednesday, September 14 here in Bexar County in the city of San Antonio, our understanding is that a Venezuelan migrant was paid what we would call a bird dog fee to recruit approximately 50 migrants from the area around a migrant resource center on San Pedro here in San Antonio.

As we understand it, 48 migrants were lured-- I will use the word lured-- under false pretenses into staying at a hotel for a couple of days. They were taken by airplane at a certain point. They were shuttled to an airplane, where they were flown to Florida and then eventually flown to Martha's Vineyard, again, under false pretenses is the information that we have, that they were promised work. They were promised the solution to several of their problems.

They were taken to Martha's Vineyard from what for what we can gather for little more than a photo op, video op. And then they were unceremoniously stranded in Martha's Vineyard. What infuriates me the most about this case is that here we have 48 people that are already on hard times, right. They are here legally in our country at that point. They have every right to be where they are.

And I believe that they were preyed upon. Somebody came from out of state, preyed upon these people, lured them with promises of a better life, which is what they were absolutely looking for, and with the knowledge that they were going to cling to whatever hope they could be offered for a better life to just be exploited and hoodwinked into making this trip to Florida and then onward to Martha's Vineyard for what I believe to be nothing more than political posturing to make a point. Well, look, we all know that during a political campaign, things can get nasty, things can get out of hand.

But when you're playing with human lives of people that are already in a desperate situation, people that, again, had every right to be where they were but were lured under false pretenses, that does tend to bother me quite a bit. And so we are absolutely opening up an investigation into this. Since this past weekend, I've been talking to at least one non-governmental organization involved in the case, LULAC National. Also been talking to at least one attorney involved with representing these folks that are still up on the East Coast as well as several members of the media local and national.

And all indications are that at this point, we are going to be opening an investigation. It is way too early for me to start naming any suspects. We do have the names of some suspects involved that we believe are persons of interest in this case at this point. But I won't be parting with those names. I think to be fair, I think everybody on this call knows who those names are already. So I won't be naming any of them. But suffice it to say, we will be opening up the case.