Immigration & BorderIssuesLocal NewsBexar County Sheriff Opens Criminal Inquiry After Florida Moves Noncitizens to Martha’s Vineyard From San Antonio

Sheriff Javier Salazar accused unnamed suspects of paying a Venezuelan noncitizen to "lure" individuals to be moved "under false pretenses."
September 21, 2022
Democratic Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announced a criminal investigation into the transportation of noncitizens from the San Antonio area to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, alleging that a Venezuelan individual was paid a “bird dog fee” to “lure” them to be transferred elsewhere.

At the behest of Gov. Ron DeSantis, the State of Florida reportedly chartered flights to transport almost 50 mostly Venezuelan individuals from around a “migrant resource center” in San Antonio to Florida and ultimately to Massachusetts. DeSantis used funds appropriated by the Florida Legislature.

In a news conference on Monday, Salazar declined to name the “persons of interest” his office had identified but alleged that they deceived people so the noncitizens would agree to leave the area.

“What infuriates me the most about this case is, here we have 48 people that are already on hard times. They are here legally in our country at that point, they have every right to be where they are,” Salazar said. “And I believe that they were preyed upon. Someone came from out of state and preyed upon these people.”

The sheriff indicated that an attorney is representing some of the noncitizens taken to Martha’s Vineyard, though he could not say she had taken all of them as clients.

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Salazar outlined some of the questions he hoped the inquiry would answer.

“We want to know what was promised to them. What, if anything, did they sign? Did they even understand the document that was put in front of them if they signed something?” Salazar asked. 

“Or was this strictly a predatory measure, somebody coming and preying upon people that are here minding their own business and are here legally, not bothering a soul. But somebody saw fit to come from another state, hunt them down, prey upon them, and then take advantage of their desperate situation, just for the sake of political theater, just for the sake of making some sort of a statement, and putting people’s lives in danger.”

The sheriff explained he cannot point to a specific law he believes was broken, but “what I can tell you is it’s wrong.”

Salazar emphasized that the noncitizens in question were not illegal aliens at the time they were approached. He also denied any political motivations and suggested he would treat the case the same whether the accused was a member of his own party or not.

In an appearance on Monday evening with Sean Hannity, DeSantis contended that the noncitizens went voluntarily and, if they ended up without basic necessities, the fault lies with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

“Millions of people since Biden’s been president illegally coming across the southern border, did they freak out about that? No. You’ve had migrants die in the Rio Grande. You had 50 die in Texas in a trailer because they were being neglected. Was there a freakout about that? No, there wasn’t,” Desantis said.

The governor also pointed to violent crime linked to illegal immigration and an increase in fentanyl trafficking and overdose deaths.

DeSantis contended that the noncitizens were “basically destitute” and suggested that volunteering to go to Martha’s Vineyard was in their best interest.

Answering a question about accommodations provided to the individuals, DeSantis said, “Not only that, they all signed consent forms to go, and then the vendor that is doing this for Florida provided them with a packet that had a map of Martha’s Vineyard. It had the number for different services on Martha’s Vineyard, and then it had numbers for the overall agencies in Massachusetts that handle things involving immigration and refugees.”

The individuals were reportedly relocated to a military base after arriving in Massachusetts.

DeSantis’ communications director, Taryn Fenske, responded to Salazar’s news conference in a social media post.

“Immigrants are more than willing to leave Bexar County after being enticed to cross the border and ‘to fend for themselves,’” Fenske tweeted. “FL provided an opportunity in a sanctuary state w/ resources, as expected – unlike the 53 who died in an abandoned truck in Bexar County in June.”

In a human smuggling case in San Antonio this summer, first responders found 48 people dead in a semitrailer and several victims died at the hospital. It is among the deadliest human smuggling tragedies in American history.

Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Emergency Management and other agencies to begin transporting noncitizens to Washington, D.C. He later added New York City and Chicago to the list of destinations. More than 11,000 individuals with federal documentation have volunteered to be transferred out of Texas under the governor’s order.

Border guards have arrested illegal aliens along the southern border more than two million times since the beginning of this Fiscal Year, per an operational update published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Monday.

Editor’s Note: The Texan does not refer to illegal aliens, illegal immigrants, noncitizens, or asylum seekers as “migrants” unless they are actually in the process of transit.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."