Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took credit Thursday for sending two planes loaded with undocumented Venezuelans from Texas to wealthy Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts as Republicans tackle immigration issues ahead of midterm elections of November.
About 50 of the migrants, including children, landed on the island Wednesday, where Democratic presidents from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton have spent the summer and former President Barack Obama owns an estate.
“Immigrants are dropped off at Martha’s Vineyard by charter flights from Texas. Many don’t know where they are. They say they were told they would be given housing and jobs,” said Dylan Fernandes, a local state lawmaker.
Half a day later, two buses also from Texas deposited dozens of migrants outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ Washington residence as part of a five-month operation by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott to pressure Democrats over immigration.
“We are not a sanctuary state … We will help facilitate that transportation for you to go to greener pastures,” DeSantis said at an official event in Florida Thursday.
“In Florida, we take seriously what is happening on the southern border,” he said.
President Joe Biden criticized the moves as Republicans “play politics with humans.”
“What they are doing is just plain wrong,” Biden said at a Hispanic Caucus Congress event Thursday night. “He is not American. He is reckless.”
Accompany thousands of migrants
The moves came as DeSantis and Abbott, two of the country’s most prominent and combative Republican governors, sought to highlight the issue of tens of thousands of migrants attempting to cross the southern border into the United States each month.
Abbott, whose state is the first destination for most migrants crossing Mexico, has sent about 10,000 northward since April, mainly to Washington, Chicago and New York. These cities have declared themselves “sanctuaries” for migrants, which means they will not be arrested just for not having legal immigrant status.
Yet most of those who were transported were allowed to remain in the country by border officials after officially applying for asylum until their cases were investigated.
The Texas governor, who is seeking re-election in November, said on Thursday that Vice President Harris says the border is safe and denies the existence of a migration crisis.
“We are sending migrants to his backyard to ask the Biden administration to do its job and secure the border,” he tweeted.
DeSantis, also in a battle for re-election, has backed Abbott and is also a major contender to run for president under the Republican flag in 2024.
Charlie Crist, the Democrat who challenged DeSantis for the governorate of Florida, said sending the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard was an entirely political move.
“Florida is spending $ 12 million getting 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 does is score political points and feed red meat to his base in his barely veiled attempt to run for president.”
Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis, mocked the Martha’s Vineyard community, which announced efforts to house and feed migrants.
“Martha’s Vineyard residents overwhelmingly support illegal immigration and are calling for more diversity. Governor DeSantis was kind enough to grant their wishes,” he tweeted.
“There may be room in the Obamas’ mansion for a few dozen illegal aliens,” he said.