Just days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew nearly 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in a sick political stunt that left officials scrambling, another group of asylum-seekers in Texas that were promised a better life—this time in Delaware—were stranded at a motel Tuesday after their flight was abruptly canceled.
Instead of boarding a plane, a bus was sent on Tuesday to the La Quinta where Florida operatives tied to DeSantis had stuck the group from Venezuela as they waited for their flight that never was. The bus arrived without warning, whisking some of the asylum-seekers back to a San Antonio migrant resource center that they were shadily recruited from just days before.
There was no message that the bus was coming, however, and a handful of migrants found themselves not only stranded in Texas, but stranded at the motel itself, which is 10 miles away from the migrant center and the aid they desperately needed, the Herald reported.
With no money and soon no shelter, 39-year-old Luis Oswaldo felt abandoned. He said he knew the flight was canceled, but no one told him a bus would be sent, so he went to track down lunch and returned to find most of his fellow asylum-seekers gone.
“They left me here alone,” Oswaldo told the Herald. “They left and that was it. They didn’t give out more food. I have water from the lobby. I’m ‘eating’ water now.”
That feeling of hopelessness permeated throughout the group, which had its dreams of landing a secure job and new life in America squashed as quickly as it was promised. Just days prior, an unnamed woman with straight hair had approached the migrants outside the San Antonio center, dangling “clandestine” flights to other cities with jobs and more resources for them, the Herald reported.
“I want to cry because I feel hopeless,” Deiker José told the Herald. “I have nothing. How do I work? How do I survive?”
The series of interviews sheds light on what really happened Tuesday, when Delaware officials were sent scrambling to prepare for a “surprise” migrant flight that was reportedly headed their way. It also uncovered that both groups were recruited by an unidentified woman with black hair. Also involved with the Delaware-bound group was the shady operative, known only as “Perla,” who cops told the Herald had her name on the group’s reservation at the La Quinta. Perla had previously been identified as the woman who allegedly convinced migrants to fly to Martha’s Vineyard, telling them they’d get jobs and government assistance in their new cities.
The flights followed a similar flight plan: Leave Texas, then stopover in Florida before heading to the northeast. The only significant difference was their final destination, which had last week’s flight touching down in Martha’s Vineyard, while Tuesday’s flight was scheduled to land in Georgetown, Delaware, around lunch time.
The ordeal dominated national news coverage. Public flight plans showed a plane from Ultimate JetCharters, the same charter used to send migrants to a posh Massachusetts island last week, was scheduled to depart from Texas on Tuesday for Georgetown, Delaware, near where President Joe Biden has a vacation home. There was also a payment of $950,000 from Florida to Vertol Systems Company, the same contractor it paid $615,000 to for last week’s flight.
Critics questioned whether DeSantis was bold enough to again use vulnerable migrants for a political stunt, despite being under criminal investigation in Texas for allegedly luring migrants onto the Massachusetts-bound flight last week under false pretenses.
As the flight was called off, DeSantis claimed no credit for the ordeal. He refused to comment when asked at a press conference Tuesday about it, and has since gone radio-silent to all questions posed by media, including The Daily Beast, about the incident.
Christina Pushaw, an official on DeSantis’ campaign team, has acknowledged the speculation, however. She wrote on Twitter that news of the Delaware flight was “disinformation.”
But while the Delaware flight was called off for unspecified reasons, those who eagerly awaited its departure were left hurting the most. Gavin Rogers, a pastor at a San Antonio church that helps migrants, told the Herald that stunts like that of DeSantis are making the jobs of nonprofits, who actually want to help, even harder.
“When you have this kind of malicious interference, it can be destructive to people’s lives that are seeking asylum,” he said. “This is politically motivated human trafficking. It’s tragic. The burden falls on the people doing good, not the political actors.”