Updated Sep 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis sends 2 planes of migrants to Martha's Vineyard

Photo of Ron DeSantis speaking with his hands spread

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters at a campaign stop at the Horsepower Ranch in Geneva on Aug. 24, 2022. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sent two planes of undocumented migrants to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts on Wednesday, joining Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in sending migrants to sanctuary cities, Fox News first reported.

Why it matters: It's an escalation of Republican governors' standoff with President Biden over his immigration and border policies — aimed at forcing predominantly Democratic-run states to grapple with social safety-net issues.

Between the lines: DeSantis appeared to target Massachusetts, which has a Republican governor, because state and local leaders have expressed support for policies that benefit immigrants regardless of their status.

Driving the news: Some 50 migrants believed to be from Venezuela arrived by charter plane at Martha's Vineyard Airport on Wednesday afternoon, per multiple reports.

  • Flight records indicated they'd flown from San Antonio, Texas, and stopped off in Florida's panhandle before arriving on the Massachusetts island that's a favorite destination for wealthy and powerful Americans, Boston's WCVB-TV notes.
  • Some of the migrants said they had begun the trip in San Antonio, but DeSantis' office had taken responsibility for the flights, the New York Times reports.

What's happening: Terry MacCormack, a spokesperson for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), said in an emailed statement that the governor's office was "in touch with local officials regarding the arrival of migrants in Martha’s Vineyard."

  • "At this time, short-term shelter services are being provided by local officials, and the Administration will continue to support those efforts," MacCormack added.

What they're saying: "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," Taryn Fenske, DeSantis' communications director, told Fox News.

  • "[I]n this past legislative session the Florida Legislature appropriated $12 million to implement a program to facilitate the transport of illegal immigrants from this state consistent with federal law," Fenske added.
  • At the time, DeSantis' office said migrants could be sent to "'progressive' states whose governors endorse blatant violations of federal immigration law," and that Floridians shouldn't be held responsible for subsidizing migrants' costs of living.

The other side: State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha's Vineyard, tweeted Wednesday evening that the migrants "were not met with chaos, they were met with compassion."

  • "We are a community & nation that is stronger because of immigrants," he added. "The community coming together with water, food, interpretation help, & resources to support these families represent the best of America."

The big picture: Texas has since April bused over 7,600 migrants to D.C., which declared a public emergency last week.

Worth noting: DeSantis, who is running for reelection next year and is possibly eyeing a 2024 presidential bid, has sued the Biden administration over immigration enforcement.

  • Representatives for DeSantis' did not immediately return Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper: Massachusetts weighing potential plans for Texas migrant buses

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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