Bexar County sheriff launches criminal probe of flights stranding migrants in Martha's Vineyard

Salazar appears to be the first law enforcement official announcing a criminal probe of the political stunt.

click to enlarge Sheriff Javier Salazar speaks during Monday's news conference. - Screen Capture: Facebook / Bexar County Sheriff's Office
Screen Capture: Facebook / Bexar County Sheriff's Office
Sheriff Javier Salazar speaks during Monday's news conference.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar has launched a criminal investigation into a pair of flights arranged by by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that last week transported 48 Venezuelan asylum seekers from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard.

In a Monday news conference, Salazar blasted the privately booked flights as a photo op that left the migrants stranded. However, he stopped short of mentioning DeSantis by name.

Even so, the sheriff appears to be first law enforcement official to announce an investigation into the Florida governor's action.

“I believe there is some criminal activity involved here,” said Salazar, a Democrat. “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.”

The Bexar County Sheriff's Office is now working with attorneys representing some of the migrants as well as immigration advocacy groups to find out more, Salazar added.

Last week, DeSantis made international headlines by bragging that the flights were part of Florida's $12 million program to relocate migrants. Fellow Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also issued a statement saying that DeSantis had spoken with his office about Abbott's program that buses migrants to Democrat-led cities.

Asylum seekers caught up in the scheme said a woman who identified herself as "Perla" met with people outside San Antonio's Migrant Resource Center and promised them jobs and housing in Boston, according to media investigations.

Instead, the migrants were stranded in the wealthy East Coast resort community of Martha's Vineyard. They're now being housed at Massachusetts' Joint Base Cape Cod.

In a statement provided to the Associated Press, a DeSantis spokesperson said the people who boarded the plane did so willingly, "after being abandoned, homeless and 'left to fend for themselves'" in the Alamo City.

During his press conference, Salazar said the asylum seekers have a right to be in the country as their immigration court cases play out, adding that they were convinced to board the planes "under false pretenses."

“What infuriates me most about this case is that here we have 48 people that are already on hard times, and they are here legally in our country," Salazar said. "At that point, they have every right to be where they are and I believe they were preyed upon."

Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.