Martha’s Vineyard: Texas sheriff announces investigation into migrant flights

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, a Democrat, told reporters at a news conference Monday he understood a “bird dog fee” was paid to a Venezuelan migrant Wednesday to recruit 50 migrants from a resource center in San Antonio.

The sheriff said he believes not only were laws broken in Bexar County when nearly 50 migrants were transported to Martha’s Vineyard, but that parallel laws were also broken on the federal side.

According to Salazar, a total of 48 migrants were “lured” to a hotel where they stayed for two days.

The migrants were flown to Florida and later transported to Martha’s Vineyard under “false pretexts,” he said.

The sheriff said they were flown to Martha’s Vineyard for “a photo op and stranded.” He believes the migrants were “exploited and duped” into making the trip for political posturing.

Some migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard will still

The sheriff has spoken to an attorney representing some of the migrants to give a first-hand account of what happened, Salazar told reporters.

The allegations he has heard so far are “disgusting and a violation of human rights,” he said.

Salazar said he believes there must be accountability for what happened.

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DeSantis says migrants were treated well, forms signed

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has claimed he flew the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. In an interview with Fox News Monday night, DeSantis defended his decision.

“They signed all the consent forms to go and then the salesman who does this for Florida gave them a package with a map of Martha’s Vineyard, it has the numbers for various services that are on Martha’s Vineyard” , DeSantis said.

“Why didn’t they want to leave, considering where they were? They were in really, really bad shape and they needed to be cleaned up, everything, treated well,” he added.

When asked about the investigation earlier, DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske gave CNN the following explanation: “Immigrants were more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, homeless and ‘on their own.’

“Florida gave them the opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary that, as we expected, offered them greater resources. When the MA National Guard has not abandoned these individuals, they have been provided with housing, food, clothing and more ways to succeed in their unfair lure to the United States, unlike the 53 immigrants who inhabited this June died in an abandoned truck in Bexar County.

Lawyers for migrants who have been sent to Martha's Vineyard to investigate the provenance of pamphlets they believe may have been sent to Martha's Vineyard
Lawyers for many migrants said on Monday that brochures given to their clients were “highly misleading” and “were used to trick (their) clients into traveling under the guise that they were being given (relocation) assistance to… would be available”.

The brochure lists refugee services, including cash and housing assistance, clothing, transportation to job interviews, job training, and help enrolling children in school, among other resources.

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A Venezuelan migrant, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity for fear of negative repercussions on his immigration case, shared images of the pamphlet. They said the migrants were told the pamphlet contained information about the help they would receive in Massachusetts, but were not told about the differences in refugee and asylum seeker programs.

In many cases, migrants are asylum seekers, not refugees. Refugees apply for protection abroad and are admitted through the refugee admissions program, while asylum seekers apply within the United States.

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The sheriff would welcome federal help

Salazar told reporters he will work with federal agencies and welcomes the support of the White House.

“Absolutely parts of this case need to be heard at the federal level and there needs to be some coordination that goes along with that,” he said. “Well absolutely, I would welcome the White House or anyone else on the federal side to call us and help us with anything they can,” he said.

President Joe Biden met with members of his administration on Friday to discuss immigration issues.

A White House official said the meeting was scheduled before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dispatched two busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in Washington and DeSantis dispatched two planes carrying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday.

Biden has accused Republicans of “playing politics with people” and “using them as props” in response to these stunts.

CNN’s Carolyn Sung, Jamiel Lynch, Steve Almasy, Maria Santana, Polo Sandoval, Priscilla Alvarez, and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.

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