Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took credit on Thursday for sending two planeloads of undocumented Venezuelans from Texas to wealthy Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, as Republicans raise immigration issues ahead of November’s midterm elections.
About 50 of the migrants, including children, landed on the island Wednesday, where Democratic presidents from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton have summered, and former President Barack Obama owns an estate.
“Immigrants are dropped off on Martha’s Vineyard on charter flights from Texas. Many don’t know where they are. They say they were told they would get housing and jobs,” said Dylan Fernandes, a local state legislator.
Half a day later, two buses from Texas dropped off dozens of migrants outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ Washington residence as part of a five-month-old operation by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott to put pressure on the Democrats on the immigration issue.
“We are not a refuge . . . We will facilitate that transportation for you to get to greener pastures,” DeSantis said at an official event in Florida on Thursday.
“In Florida, we take what’s happening on the southern border seriously,” he said.
President Joe Biden criticized the measures as Republicans “play politics with people.”
“What they’re doing is just wrong,” Biden said at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus event Thursday night. “It’s un-American. It’s reckless.”
Transporting thousands of migrants by bus
The actions came as DeSantis and Abbott, two of the country’s most prominent and combative Republican governors, tried to raise awareness of the issue of tens of thousands of migrants trying to cross the southern border into the United States each month.
Abbott, whose state is the first destination for most migrants crossing from Mexico, has sent about 10,000 of them north since April, mostly to Washington, Chicago and New York. These cities have declared themselves “havens” for migrants – meaning they won’t be arrested just because they don’t have legal immigrant status.
But most of those being transported have been given permission by border officials to stay in the country after formally applying for asylum until their cases are reviewed.
The Texas governor, who wants to be re-elected in November, said on Thursday that Vice President Harris claims the border is safe and denies the existence of an immigration crisis.
“We are sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden administration to do its job and secure the border,” he tweeted.
DeSantis, also in a reelection battle, has backed Abbott and is also one of the top contenders to run for president under the Republican banner in 2024.
Charlie Crist, the Democrat who is challenging DeSantis for Florida governor, said sending the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard was an entirely political move.
“Florida is spending $12 million to fly innocent migrant children out of our state, when that money could be spent fighting to help Floridians and cut costs,” Crist said on Twitter.
“All Ron DeSantis is doing is scoring political points and feeding red meat to his base in his thinly veiled run for president.”
Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis, taunted the Martha’s Vineyard community, which announced efforts to house and feed the migrants.
“Inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard overwhelmingly support illegal immigration and call for greater diversity. Governor DeSantis was kind enough to grant their wishes,” she wrote on Twitter.
“There may be room in the Obamas’ mansion for a few dozen illegal aliens,” she said.