Updated Jun 5, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Texas sheriff recommends criminal charges over flights to Martha's Vineyard

Venezuelan migrants gather at the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal in Marthas Vineyard in September.

Migrants gather at the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal in Martha's Vineyard in September. Photo: Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday it's filed a criminal case with the Texas county's district attorney over flights Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) arranged transporting 49 undocumented migrants from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard last September.

Driving the news: "The charge filed is Unlawful Restraint and several accounts were filed, both misdemeanor and felony," said Adelina Simpson, a spokesperson for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, in an emailed statement Monday evening.

  • She added that the case was being reviewed by the Bexar County District Attorney's Office.

Flashback: DeSantis insisted the flights were part of his administration's migrant relocation efforts and were voluntary, but Javier Salazar, the sheriff for the southern Texas county that includes San Antonio, said his office was opening an investigation into the matter amid concerns migrants were "lured under false pretenses."

The intrigue: The sheriff’s office did not name any individual suspects.

The big picture: DeSantis, who's campaigning for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, sent the migrants to the Massachusetts island as part of a wider protest against President Biden's immigration and border policies.

  • The Florida governor last February signed into law a bill to expand a controversial state program used to relocate migrants from anywhere in the country to Democratic-led cities.
  • Representatives for the Bexar County District Attorney's Office and DeSantis did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper... On the ground: The scramble to help migrants on Martha's Vineyard

Editor's note: This article has been updated with further context.

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