Sheriff Javier Salazar said Monday the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is opening an investigation into whether people who “lured” migrants onto planes to Martha’s Vineyard did so “under false pretenses.”
Two flights of migrants departed San Antonio’s Kelly Field last week and landed at the Massachusetts resort island. A 27-year-old Venezuelan migrant told the San Antonio Report a woman paid him to recruit other migrants for the flights, telling him the people would be sent to “sanctuary states.”
Some of the migrants who made the trip said they were promised jobs, English classes and housing, none of which materialized.
“What infuriates me the most about this case is that here we have 48 people who are already on hard times, right?” Salazar said via a hastily called Zoom press conference.
“They are here legally in our country, they have every right to be where they are, and I believe they were preyed upon. Somebody … preyed upon these people, lured them with promises for a better life, which is what they were absolutely looking for.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken credit for the flights, saying, according to NPR, that the migrants who accepted the flights had been identified as wanting to relocate to Florida. The state has allocated $12 million “to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens out of Florida.”
None of the migrants who spoke to the San Antonio Report mentioned wanting to relocate to Florida or being asked whether they were planning to go to Florida. All said they were excited by the prospect of getting work.
Salazar said he believes there is a “high possibility” that Texas laws had been broken, and perhaps federal laws as well. “We will work with any and all agencies” that might also be investigating the incident, he said.
Thus far, he said, the sheriff’s office has spoken with Boston attorney Rachel Self, who is representing some of the migrants who were transported, and representatives from the League of United Latin American Citizens, which is offering a $5,000 reward for information about the woman calling herself Perla.
“Perla” has been identified by several migrants as the person who encouraged them to sign up for the flights with promises of work and housing in unnamed “sanctuary states.”
Since then, the City of San Antonio has begun advising migrants not to accept rides or any other assistance from strangers outside the migrant resource center, and to report any concerns to the staff. Signs have been posted at the center providing the National Human Trafficking hotline.
Salazar said his office does have the names of some suspects but that it is too early in the investigation to name them.
Salazar said that members of the organized crime unit will take part in the investigation, and he encouraged anyone with any information to share via bcsotips.org or by calling 210-335-GANG (4264).