Texas Sheriff Files Criminal Charges Over DeSantis’ Migrant Fights

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento is seen in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2023. Sixteen migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were brought to the diocese's offices on Friday, June 2, 2023, after being flown from Texas to Sacramento. (AP Photo/Tran Nguyen)

By Isabel Soisson

June 8, 2023

A Texas sheriff has recommended criminal charges over flights coordinated by the state of Florida that transported dozens of South American migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard last year. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis orchestrated the flights, and the office of Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said in a statement Monday that it has filed a criminal case with the local district attorney. 

“The charge filed is unlawful restraint and several accounts were filed, both misdemeanor and felony,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement provided to KSAT News

The Bexar County district attorney must now decide whether to pursue the charges.

Across the country, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday also seemed to suggest DeSantis could be charged with kidnapping over separate South American migrant flights that were directed to Sacramento from Florida this past Saturday and Monday. Those on the flight that arrived Monday were abandoned outside of a church upon their arrival in a private jet. 

Newsom called DeSantis a “small, pathetic man” on Twitter.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre weighed in on Wednesday during a press briefing, as well, criticizing the Republican governors like DeSantis who’ve been transporting migrants to other states.

“I just don’t understand…what are these governors doing?” she said. “Why are they causing chaos? Why are they causing confusion? What does that actually do for their constituency or for the people who are being put on these planes or on the buses, and it just doesn’t make sense, they’re playing games and political stunts.”

DeSantis defended the flights to Sacramento on Wednesday. 

“These sanctuary jurisdictions are part of the reason we have this problem because they have endorsed and agitated for these types of open border policies,” DeSantis said in a statement. “They have bragged they are sanctuary jurisdictions. They attack the previous administration’s efforts to try to have border security…when they have to deal with some of the fruits of that, they all of a sudden become very, very upset about that.” 

Despite frequent claims from DeSantis and other Republican politicians, the United States does not have an open border policy. Nor have California or other Democratic-controlled states pushed for one.

Salazar previously said last fall that the 49 migrants who were sent to Martha’s Vineyard were “lured under false pretenses,” as well. These groups were told that they would have jobs and housing if they boarded the planes, but when they arrived in Martha’s Vineyard, officials had been given no advance notice of their arrival. 

DeSantis was widely criticized for the act last year and accused of playing politics with people’s lives. The Emergency Management Association for Dukes County, where Martha’s Vineyard is located, also said that he created an “urgent humanitarian situation” by organizing the flights. 

The Florida governor, who announced his 2024 presidential campaign last month, has made immigration a central issue of his political career. 

In May, he signed a law which invalidated out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants. The law also requires companies with over 25 employees to check their immigration status and provides a specific fund to deport undocumented immigrants to other areas of the U.S.

Shortly after the law was signed, the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Latino advocacy group, issued a travel advisory which urged people not to travel to Florida.


  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.



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