Politico

DeSantis ships migrants to Martha's Vineyard

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, making good on his promise to send undocumented immigrants to other states, kickstarted the effort on Wednesday by arranging to have two planeloads of migrants dropped off on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

The news jolted the Massachusetts resort area known for being an enclave of the wealthy and powerful, including former President Barack Obama. Fox News first reported the news and included exclusive video showing the group of roughly 50 migrants arriving at the local airport.

There was apparently confusion about where the migrants came from, with some local media and officials saying at least one of the planes had come from Texas. But the governor’s office quickly confirmed that yes, Florida was responsible for sending them there. DeSantis has been sharply critical of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy and Florida has mounted legal challenges against it.

“States like Massachusetts, New York, and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals who they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden Administration’s open border policies,” said Taryn Fenske, communications director for DeSantis.

DeSantis has fundraised in Massachusetts, attending an event on Nantucket last month as he works to build his national profile ahead of a possible 2024 presidential run. GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has also been transporting migrants outside of Texas but primarily targeted states and cities led by Democrats. DeSantis picked a blue state led by a fellow Republican — though not one aligned with his conservative values.

The Republican governor had floated for months that he was prepared to bus undocumented immigrants to Biden’s home state of Delaware. Early on, he had also suggested he would send some to Martha’s Vineyard. And earlier this year, DeSantis got the Republican-led Florida Legislature to set aside $12 million for the effort. But in late August, he suggested it had not happened so far because the Biden administration had stopped sending those who cross the southern border to Florida.

There was no immediate explanation from the governor’s office as to why the situation had changed, or whether the migrants had come directly from Texas or Florida. (Texas has itself been busing migrants to Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago.) One Martha’s Vineyard news organization suggested that many of those who had arrived were migrants who had come to the U.S. from Venezuela.

Democrats in both Massachusetts and Florida denounced the move. “It’s pretty disgusting to see that politicians are capitalizing on the difficult circumstances these families are in for a ‘gotcha’ moment and political stunt,” Julian Cyr, the state senator who represents Martha’s Vineyard.

Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA), whose district includes Martha’s Vineyard, tweeted that “history does not look kindly on leaders who treat human beings like cargo, loading them up and sending them a thousand miles away without telling them their destination.”

Florida Democratic Party chair Manny Diaz called it a “new low” for DeSantis designed to score political points at the expense of people “who came here in search of freedom and opportunity.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, did not engage in any direct criticism of DeSantis. Instead his office told media that it was in touch with local officials and would support efforts to assist the new arrivals.

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