Sep 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

What we know about Texas and Florida's transport of migrants

Photo of masked migrants carrying personal belongings as they board a bus
Migrants from Venezuela, who boarded a bus in Texas, wait to be transported to a local church after being dropped off outside the residence of Vice President Harris in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 15, 2022. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis (Fla.) and Greg Abbott (Texas) ignited a firestorm overnight with their latest transport of migrants — one via plane to a Massachusetts island and the other via bus to Vice President Harris' residence.

The big picture: Since the spring, over 10,000 migrants have been transported from mostly Texas to predominantly Democrat-run cities in a bid to test their social safety nets and challenge President Biden's border policies.

Driving the news: Buses sent by Abbott dropped off roughly 100 migrants outside Harris' residence in D.C. on Thursday, the Texas Tribune reports.

  • Their arrival followed a similar move by DeSantis, who sent some 50 migrants by plane to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts on Wednesday.
  • A spokesperson for DeSantis told Fox News that states like Massachusetts "have invited [migrants] into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration through their ... support for the Biden administration’s open border policies."
  • An Abbott spokesperson later said he was not involved in DeSantis' planes effort but "appreciate[s] the support in responding to this national crisis."

Context: Republican officials at the southern border have long argued that their constituents shouldn't have to accommodate or subsidize costs of living for undocumented migrants.

Zoom in: D.C., Chicago and New York have struggled to meet the need, with local officials calling on the Biden administration to provide federal support.

  • D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who declared a public emergency last week in response to the influx, has said she is "very disappointed in not having a federal site" to house and process the migrants.
  • The federal government has rejected her requests to have the National Guard deployed as assistance.

Between the lines: While Abbott, Ducey and DeSantis say their actions give predominantly Democratic-run states a taste of what they have to endure, critics have lambasted the move as a cruel and inhumane publicity stunt, pointing to the fact that many of these migrants are seeking asylum after fleeing danger.

What's happening now: In Martha's Vineyard, an island off the Massachusetts coast, volunteers have moved migrants into a church shelter and delivered water, diapers and clothing. A nonprofit is providing food for the asylum seekers while the state determines where to take them next.

  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office has set up a website asking for volunteers and donations. Several shelters and nonprofits are also providing assistance, including meals, beds and legal advice.
  • Meanwhile, Bowser's public emergency declaration invested $10 million in a new D.C. Office of Migrant Services, which will coordinate between nonprofits and other groups providing resources.

Worth noting: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has called on the Justice Department to open a probe of Abbott and DeSantis' "inhumane efforts to use kids as political pawns," and whether their actions could lead to kidnapping charges.

What to watch: Other Democratic mayors are making preparations in anticipation of Abbott sending migrants to their cities.

Go deeper: On the ground: The scramble to help migrants at Martha's Vineyard

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