The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office says it has completed its investigation into the transport of 49 migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard last September by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration and filed criminal charges with the local district attorney.
A statement from the sheriff’s office says it has filed several counts of unlawful restraint, both misdemeanors and felonies. The sheriff’s office didn’t name any individual suspects and didn’t specify when the investigation was turned over to the Bexar County district attorney.
“At this time, the case is being reviewed by the DA’s office. Once an update is available, it will be provided to the public,” the statement said.
In a separate statement from the sheriff’s office, spokesperson Johnny Garcia said the case was turned over to the DA’s office “recently,” adding, “At this time we are not naming the suspects involved in the case.”
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said in a statement released Tuesday that his office will review the criminal complaint from the sheriff’s office.
“The process of determining whether enough evidence exists to charge anyone with a crime and convince a jury of Bexar County citizens beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed may be lengthy and labor-intensive under the best of circumstances,” Gonzales said. “If a review of the facts reveal that a felony offense has been committed, we will present that case to a grand jury for their deliberation.”
According to a lawsuit filed by a law firm representing some of the migrants, Perla Huerta, a former combat medic and counterintelligence agent in the U.S. Army, gave $10 McDonald’s gift cards to about 50 migrants in San Antonio last year in exchange for a signed consent form to board a flight to Massachusetts. Inside the charter plane, the migrants, many of whom were Venezuelans, were given a brochure with a list of organizations that provide social services the migrants were not eligible for, according to the lawsuit.
The next day at a news conference, DeSantis claimed credit for sending the planes from Texas to Massachusetts. He has said that it was part of the state’s program to relocate migrants to a “sanctuary destination.” The Florida Legislature set aside $12 million for the effort, and DeSantis has spent more than $1.5 million so far on the flights, according to state records.
DeSantis’ office didn’t respond to an email from the Tribune seeking comment.
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said he was “was pleased to hear that Sheriff Salazar’s office has taken the case seriously. This is not about politics, it’s about people that have broken the law. And they need to be held accountable.”
There’s a lot of background to this – see here, here, here, here, and here for the relevant bits. It’s hard to know more in the absence of the specifics of who’s been charged with what crimes, and there’s sure to be a defense argument that the migrants had all consented to their relocation. I have no idea what will happen, but it has the potential to get loud and messy and drawn out, and it’s all happening as another Florida-instigated relocation is occurring. I will continue to keep an eye on it. The San Antonio Report and the Miami Herald have more.