Texas sheriff opens investigation into DeSantis’ migrant flight to Martha’s Vineyard

Florida House Democrats also send letter objecting to spending

Gov. Ron DeSantis is still getting heat after transporting 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha's Vineyard last week.

MIAMI – A Texas sheriff has opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to fly a group of migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, the Bexar County agency tweeted Monday evening.

Javier Salazar, the sheriff of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, held a news conference on the migrant flight Monday.

“The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office has opened an investigation into the migrants that were lured from the Migrant Resource Center, located in Bexar County, TX, and flown to Florida, where they were ultimately left to fend for themselves in Martha’s Vineyard, MA,” the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office tweeted. “Additionally, we are working with private attorneys who are representing the victims, as well as advocacy organizations regarding this incident.”

The agency said it is also “preparing to work with any federal agencies that have concurrent jurisdiction, should the need arise.”

Salazar is a Democrat, while DeSantis is a Republican.

Meanwhile, Florida House Democrats say the governor wasn’t playing by rules set forth in Florida’s budget when $12 million was allocated for migrant transports.

They sent a letter to the House speaker and budget chair raising an objection to the governor’s move Monday.

The funds were allocated to “facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law, where ‘unauthorized alien’ means a person who is unlawfully present in the United States.”

Democratic lawmakers argue that the migrants were actually refugees and asylum seekers, who, according to federal law, may stay in the United States while the asylum process plays out.

“A vote for the budget is not a carte blanche,” Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said. “(It’s not) approval of the governor to do whatever he wants.”

Venezuelans have flooded out of the country to flee the Maduro regime.

The migrants were not in Florida except for a short plane stop on the way from Texas. The letter argues any intention they might have had to come to Florida is not enough reason to “intercept” them.

A senior official in the DeSantis administration spoke to Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg Monday, seeking to clarify issues related to the migrant flight.

That official said Venezuelan families were never promised jobs or housing. Rather, they were told that in Massachusetts, there might be many more resources for migrants.

He also said prior to getting on those flights, many of them were housed at a hotel for a couple of days, were given haircuts, allowed to rest and said several of the migrants then chose not to go to Massachusetts.

“Immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, homeless, and ‘left to fend for themselves,’” DeSantis’ Communications Director Taryn Fenski, said in a statement. “Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected. Unless the MA national guard has abandoned these individuals, they have been provided accommodations, sustenance, clothing and more options to succeed following their unfair enticement into the United States, unlike the 53 immigrants who died in a truck found abandoned in Bexar County this June.”

The Bexar County sheriff is asking anyone who has been impacted or knows someone who has been impacted by the recent flight to email bcsotips@bexar.com.

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.