Amid ongoing questions about whether Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis broke the law transporting 48 Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, a Texas sheriff said Monday evening his agency will open an investigation into what he called “a clear case of human trafficking.”
But DeSantis described the flights as “voluntary,” while speaking at a press conference on Friday.
“They’re given a good ride,” he said. “It’s a humane thing to do.”
However, legal experts disagree with the Florida governor and have accused DeSantis of using the migrants to help him get reelected as governor in November and to continue to build his political profile to run for president in 2024.
“We’re not talking about a delivery of crates of shoes, we’re talking about people,” says Elizabeth Ricci, an immigration attorney based in Tallahassee.
Meanwhile, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters at a Monday news conference that his understanding was that a Venezuelan migrant was paid a “bird dog fee” to recruit 50 migrants from a resource center in San Antonio, CNN reported.
The sheriff said he believes laws were not only broken in Bexar County in transporting nearly 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard but that parallel laws were also broken on the federal side.
A total of 48 migrants were “lured” to a hotel where they were housed for two days, according to Salazar.
The sheriff said they were flown to Martha’s Vineyard for “a photo-op and stranded.” He believes the migrants were “exploited and hoodwinked” into making the trip for political posturing.
The sheriff has been speaking with an attorney who represents some of the migrants for first-hand accounts of what took place, Salazar told reporters.
The allegations that he has heard thus far are “disgusting and a violation of human rights,” he said.
Salazar said he believes there needs to be accountability for what happened.
Salazar told reporters he will be working with federal agencies and welcomes White House assistance.
“Absolutely parts of this case are going to have to go federal, and there’s going to have to be some coordination that goes along with that,” he said. “So absolutely, I would welcome the White House or anybody else from the federal side to give us a call and help us out with whatever they can,” he said.
President Joe Biden met Friday with members of his administration to talk about immigration issues. The president has accused Republicans of “playing politics with human beings” and “using them as props.”