'Deeply distressed': Bay Area shuttle service says it no longer owns buses seen carrying migrants

Photo of Amanda Bartlett
A bus from Marin Airporter, an airport shuttle service based in San Rafael.?

A bus from Marin Airporter, an airport shuttle service based in San Rafael.?

Marin Airporter/Yelp

LATEST?Sept. 19, 1:18 p.m. In an official statement shared with SFGATE Monday afternoon, Marin Airporter's vice president David Hughes declined to reveal the buyers of the buses that previously belonged to his company, but said he was troubled by the use of the vehicles, which still had the Bay Area shuttle service's logo intact.?

"They [were] sold several months ago to a company in Houston, Texas, and despite repeated requests have not been repainted," he said. "It is standard in the industry for new owners to update bus paint and logos when purchasing used buses, however this obviously has not been done. Marin Airporter is deeply distressed that our name has been connected with the exploitation of vulnerable human beings."

Sept. 19, 9:23 a.m. A Bay Area-based airport shuttle service is facing criticism after some of its buses were seen unloading asylum seekers from Texas at a New York City bus terminal over the weekend following a controversial migrant transportation program established by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, which has reportedly displaced thousands of people in recent months.?

Charter vehicles bearing the Marin Airporter’s unmistakable rainbow-striped logo caught the attention of local viewers during national news segments that aired on NBC and CBS Saturday evening. But the shuttle service, which is headquartered in San Rafael and transports commuters to and from the San Francisco International Airport, said it sold the buses to another company months ago, which failed to remove the Airporter logo.?

“The Marin Airporter is horrified to be in anyway associated with this,” the Marin Airporter said in a tweet. “The buses seen in New York were sold months ago and are no longer owned or operated by Marin Airporter. The new owners failed to repaint them as required. We would never be a part of anything like this.”

Also last week, Abbott claimed to have sent between 75 and 100 migrants to the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in an apparent retaliatory move for her comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” in which she called the border “secure,” per the Texas Tribune. The Associated Press reported there were more than 100 people on board from Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela.

“We did [send them],” Abbott said to Lubbock radio station KFYO, as reported by the Tribune. “She’s the border czar, and we felt that if she won’t come down to see the border, if President [Joe] Biden will not come down and see the border, we will make sure they see it firsthand. … And listen, there’s more where that came from.”

Another Republican leader, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, took similar action to oppose President Joe Biden’s border policies earlier this week, and chartered two flights of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, an affluent island in Massachusetts where former President Barack Obama owns a home.

California Gov. Gavin 竞技宝官网om decried the initiative as “morally reprehensible” and “possibly illegal” in a letter shared on his Twitter account Thursday.? Passengers are required to sign waivers stating the trips are voluntary; however, 竞技宝官网om wrote that several of the people who were transported to Martha’s Vineyard alleged they were persuaded to do so because a recruiter told them they would be taken to Boston, where they would receive authorization to work.

“What @GovRonDeSantis and @GregAbbott_TX are doing isn’t clever, it’s cruel,” 竞技宝官网om wrote. “I’m formally requesting the DOJ begin an immediate investigation into these inhumane efforts to use kids as political pawns.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams also told Politico he was planning on taking legal action to stop Abbott from sending more of the buses to the city.

“We are appalled that buses with our logo are a part of this reprehensible activity,” Marin Airporter Vice President David Hughes said in a tweet.

When SFGATE attempted to reach Marin Airporter for more details on Sunday, employee Dan McDonald reiterated the statement shared on Twitter but said he did not have any other information at this time.

"Those aren't our buses," he said by phone. "We've been getting lots of calls, and I keep telling people we sold them months ago."?

A spokesperson for Marin Airporter told SFGATE it would issue a statement with more information Monday morning.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.