“In addition, we are working with personal attorneys representing the victims and advocacy organizations about this incident,” Sheriff Javier Salazar (D) said in a statement. “We are also prepared to work with any federal agency with concurrent jurisdiction if needed.”
DeSantis surprised federal and state officials on Wednesday by sending migrants who had recently crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to a wealthy Massachusetts vacation island. The move is part of an ongoing campaign by DeSantis and other Republican governors in Texas and Arizona to send immigrants to heavily Democrat cities such as Washington, New York and Chicago, to publicize a surge in crossings at the southern border this year.
About 50 immigrants — including men, women and children — boarded the shuttle flight from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard and made a brief stop in Florida. Many of them later told immigration lawyers and advocates that they would get jobs and other benefits if they traveled to Massachusetts. But in fact, it’s not.
“They were promised to address several of their problems,” Salazar said Monday. “They were taken to Martha’s Vineyard, and all we could gather was pictures, video, and then they were unceremoniously stranded on Martha’s Vineyard.”
A request for comment to DeSantis’ communications office later in the day went unanswered.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he spoke with the sheriff about his investigation’s decision.
“We thought early on that if they were lured by false pretenses, it could be a crime,” Wolf said. “If you think about what smugglers do, it’s not that different.”
He said it was unclear whether the recruiter had any connection to DeSantis, but “if it turns out that things were done wrong, he could be held accountable. He instigated it.”
Democrats and immigration advocates denounced the incident as a political stunt; the White House slammed DeSantis and other Republican governors for “using immigration as a political pawn” as “shameful…reckless and completely wrong.”
“There’s a process in place. What they’re doing is an illegal stunt, a political stunt,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said last week. “And it’s really disrespectful to humanity.”
Jean-Pierre raised the question of whether a Biden administration would take legal action to the Justice Department.
Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Lori Rozsa, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, and Maria Sacchetti contributed to this report.