MARTHA’S VINEYARD, Mass., September 16 (Reuters) – Florida’s Republican governor on Friday defended his decision to fly dozens of migrants from Texas to the affluent resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, saying similar actions could follow if a political dispute erupts on border security intensified ahead of the US elections in November.
DeSantis on Wednesday claimed credit for two charter flights that carried about 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, as part of a broader Republican effort to shift responsibility for frontier workers to Democratic leaders.
At a news conference in Daytona Beach, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blamed Democratic President Joe Biden for what he described as a failure to block migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as this fiscal year saw a record number of 1.8 million was arrested.
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DeSantis said the Florida Legislature has allocated $12 million to transport migrants out of the state and his government will likely use the funds “to protect Florida.”
“There can be more flights, there can be buses,” he said to cheers and applause from supporters in the crowd.
The state paid $615,000 to Vertol Systems Company Inc, an airline company, on Sept. 8 as part of a “relocation program for unauthorized aliens,” Florida state data showed. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The flights to Martha’s Vineyard follow a bus effort by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, another Republican, who has sent more than 10,000 migrants to Democrat-controlled cities of Washington, New York and Chicago since April. The Republican governor of Arizona has also sent more than 1,800 migrants to Washington.
Unlike those big cities, the island south of Boston is home to around 20,000 year-round residents and is known as a vacation spot for wealthy liberals like former Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Continue reading
On Friday morning, the migrants, a group of mostly Venezuelans including half a dozen children, boarded buses in Martha’s Vineyard en route to a ferry to Cape Cod organized by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican. He said they would be temporarily housed at a military base in Cape Cod.
The scene brought tears to some of the islanders, who volunteered to host her in a church for two nights. Locals had banded together to donate money, toiletries and toys to the migrants. A local thrift store donated clean clothes, restaurants took turns organizing meals, and volunteer lawyers flew in to help migrants with paperwork and immigration cases.
“I want them to have a good life,” said Lisa Belcastro, who helped organize cribs and supplies at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, nestled between expensive white clapboard houses in Edgartown. “I want them to come to America and be hugged. They all want to work.”
Venezuelan migrants stand in front of St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown, Massachusetts, U.S. September 14, 2022. Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
DeSantis, who is running for re-election in November and is often mentioned as a possible presidential nominee for 2024, said his administration flew the migrants to the island flight from Texas rather than his own state because many of the migrants arriving in Florida are from Texas .
In addition to DeSantis and Abott’s re-election bids, November’s midterm elections will determine whether Democrats retain control of Congress.
Many migrants entering the United States through the Southwest border are immediately deported to Mexico or other countries under a COVID-19 pandemic policy. However, some nationalities, including Venezuelans, cannot be deported as Mexico does not accept them and many seek US asylum.
The White House has condemned the Republican governors’ efforts, saying migrants are being used in a political stunt.
“They were children. They were mothers. They fled Communism. And what did Governor DeSantis and Governor Abbott do to them? press conference on Friday.
The legal basis for the Florida government to arrest migrants in another state remained unclear. U.S. government attorneys are reviewing possible litigation related to the governors’ effort, a Biden administration official told Reuters.
The migrants who were flown to Martha’s Vineyard said they were recently flown to the United States on humanitarian grounds after fleeing Venezuela and were staying at an animal shelter in San Antonio, Texas, when they were killed by a approached a woman posing as “Perla”. “
The woman persuaded them to board the flights by leading them to believe they would fly to Boston and receive protection and job-search assistance for three months, they said.
Many said they told the people organizing the flights they had appointments with immigration officials to attend in other cities, Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, the director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, a Boston-based group, told the migrants supports.
“The organizers of this program said, ‘Don’t worry, it will be taken care of,'” he said.
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Reporting by Jonathan Allen in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Ted Hesson and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Edited by Mica Rosenberg and Jonathan Oatis
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