A Texas sheriff who launched an investigation into possible human trafficking by the governors of Texas and Florida after they flew a group of Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard has said the US should welcome them because restaurants need the staff.
On Tuesday, the 50 Venezuelan migrants who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard filed a class action suit against Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, who arranged the flight from Texas – arguing that they ‘experienced cruelty akin to what they fled in their home country’.
Javier Salazar, a Democrat whose district, Bexar County, includes the city of San Antonio, said the U.S. needed to rethink its attitude towards migrants, and said flying them across the country was not the solution.
‘I think at some point you’re going to have to embrace the fact that this is happening, to a certain extent,’ he told CNN.
Speaking hours after new Customs and Border Protection data showed that migrant arrivals had surpassed two million this year for the first time ever, Salazar said they were needed, as workers.
He said restaurants in his district needed the migrants as staff. ‘I would say: look, you’ve got people that want to work,’ he said.
Javier Salazar, sheriff of Bexar County, said on Tuesday that the U.S. should welcome migrants – because the restaurants needed more staff
Venezuelan migrants are seen on Wednesday in Martha’s Vineyard, having been flown there from Texas by the Florida governor
The authorities in Martha’s Vineyard were not warned of the arrival of the migrants, and had to scramble to find shelter for them in a local church
‘They want to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay – not for slave wages, give them an honest day’s pay.
‘And you’ve got a shortage of workers.
‘If you go to any restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, right now you’re going to wait a long time to get your table, even though there are empty tables, because there are not enough wait staff to wait on you; you’re going to wait a long time for your food because there are not enough people to cook it in the back. Half the cooks maybe aren’t showing up for work, or they quit.’
Salazar said the solution was to employ the new arrivals – despite the fact that, having crossed illegally, they would not have work permits.
‘Hire these folks; give them the opportunity to work legally and ensure that the employers who are employing them are doing it the right way. And paying them correctly,’ he said.
‘And here’s the catch: tax them on it. So that they are paying tax on any income they are making. They are not making any more than anybody else but they are not making any less than anybody else either.
‘And they are paying their fair share of taxes.’
Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, who chartered the planes to fly the migrants from Texas, said boarding the planes was voluntary
Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, has also sent migrants from his state – using buses to transport them to Washington DC, New York City and Chicago
The latest report on the number of migrants arrested at the border this year hit historic records
US Customs and Border Protection saw a 400 percent increase in the number of migrants on the FBI’s terror watch list caught trying to illegally cross the US-Mexico border this year
Salazar said he accepted that not everyone was an asset to U.S. society.
In June, Border Patrol agents in the El Paso Sector said they had arrested an average of three migrants with criminal records per day since Fiscal Year 2022 began.
Customs and Border Protection reported this week that 78 immigrants on the U.S. terror watch list have been apprehended crossing over the border last year – nearly four times as much as the 15 in 2021.
Last year’s report was up from three in 2020, with the U.S. previously reporting zero in 2019, six in 2018, and just two in 2017.
‘Now obviously I know we can’t let everybody into the country: there are going to be people who are undesirable, they may have a terrorist background, they may have a criminal background,’ said Salazar.
‘Keep those folks in their country of origin.
‘But people that just want to do a hard day’s work for a hard day’s pay – bring ’em on in, and let’s put them to work. Let’s let them do something.’
Salazar was angered by DeSantis last week chartering two flights from his district, which flew the Venezuelans to the Massachusetts holiday island.
Those on board said they were falsely told they would have expedited work papers if they got on the plane.
The 50 are now at an airbase in Cape Cod, while authorities work out what to do with them.
On Monday, Salazar’s office tweeted: ‘The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office has opened an investigation into the migrants that were lured from the Migrant Resource Center, located in Bexar County, TX, and flown to Florida, where they were ultimately left to fend for themselves in Martha’s Vineyard, MA.
‘Additionally, we are working with private attorneys who are representing the victims, as well as advocacy organizations regarding this incident.
‘We are also preparing to work with any federal agencies that have concurrent jurisdiction, should the need arise.’
On Tuesday, the migrants themselves sued DeSantis and his transport secretary.
The suit provides a detailed account of how the migrants came to board the two planes allegedly under false pretenses, arguing the relocations violated their Fourth and 14th Amendment rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
‘These immigrants, who are pursuing the proper channels for lawful immigration status in the United States, experienced cruelty akin to what they fled in their home country,’ the suit alleges.
‘Defendants manipulated them, stripped them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process and equal protection under law, and impermissibly interfered with the Federal Government’s exclusive control over immigration in furtherance of an unlawful goal and a personal political agenda.’
The suit, filed in a federal trial court in Massachusetts, asks a judge to declare DeSantis’s relocations illegal under the Constitution as well as federal and state laws.
It also asks the judge to prevent Florida from inducing immigrants to travel across state laws by fraud and misrepresentation.
DeSantis has said the flights were ‘clearly voluntary.’