EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) — Republican governors are stepping up their partisan tactic of sending migrants to Democratic strongholds without notice, including a wealthy summertime enclave in Massachusetts and the home of Vice President Kamala Harris, to taunt leaders of immigrant-friendly “sanctuary” cities and stir up opposition to Border policies of the Biden administration.
The governors of Texas and Arizona have sent thousands of migrants on buses to New York, Chicago and Washington, DC in recent months. But the latest surprise moves – which included two flights to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday paid for by Florida – have reached a new level of political theater that critics have called inhumane.
Upon arrival at Martha’s Vineyard, where former President Barack Obama has a home, the migrants, mostly from Venezuela, received meals, shelter, health care and information on where to find work.
The vacation island south of Boston, whose year-round residents include many blue-collar workers, appeared to absorb the dozens of arrivals without a major hitch.
Elizabeth Folcarelli, executive director of the nonprofit organization Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, was finishing her work when she saw 48 Venezuelans with luggage and backpacks approach her office. They carried red folders with pamphlets for his organization.
“We told them they would have a job. and they would have housing,” said Folcarelli, who described the rush for shelter as a “huge challenge.”
The migrants played soccer and hung out in small groups on the porch of their temporary shelter on Thursday while meeting visiting lawyers who gave free advice and other service providers.
Well-wishers dropped off donations and volunteers signed up to provide whatever help they could offer. There were no signs of protest.
United Latin American Citizens League President Domingo Garcia said some of the migrants sent on buses from Texas to Washington, D.C. had been “tricked” – an allegation The Associated Press has not confirmed and which officials in Texas and Arizona have denied.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the flights to Martha’s Vineyard were part of an effort to “transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.” The Florida Legislature appropriated $12 million to transport “unauthorized aliens” out of state.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to questions about where the migrants boarded the planes and how they were brought in to make the trip.
Massachusetts State Senator Julian Cyr told The Vineyard Gazette that a plane was coming from San Antonio, raising questions about whether migrants had ever set foot in Florida. Flight tracking data shows one flight departed from San Antonio, stopped in Crestview, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, before landing in Martha’s Vineyard.
The two Texas migrant buses that arrived outside Harris’ residence at the United States Naval Observatory early Thursday were carrying more than 100 migrants from Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela.
“The Biden-Harris administration continues to ignore and deny the historic crisis on our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed communities across Texas for nearly two years,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said. who poured billions of taxpayer dollars into making border security a signature issue.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has publicly argued with DeSantis and Abbot over their conservative policies, on Thursday asked the US Department of Justice to investigate whether ferrying migrants across borders of the state as “political props” broke the law.
“Transporting families, including children, across state lines under false pretences is morally wrong, but it can also be illegal,” Newsom wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that he said. also posted on his Twitter account.
Without mentioning DeSantis or Abbot by name, Newsom suggested the feds could bring charges of kidnapping and “civil rights conspiracy” because migrants were targeted because of their national origin.
After asylum-seeking migrants cross the US-Mexico border, they spend time at a US Customs and Border Protection facility along the border until they are usually released to the states. United to await the end of their file. Republicans say Biden’s policies encourage migrants to disappear into US; Democrats argue that the Trump-era policy of forcing migrants to wait out their asylum claims in Mexico was inhumane.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that federal officials were not given advance notice by the Republican governors who sent the migrants to Massachusetts and Washington.
“We’re talking about children, we’re talking about families who have been promised housing, promised work, put on a bus and taken to a place they don’t know,” said Jean-Pierre, who called the governors. actions a “cruel and premeditated political coup”.
Abbott has transported 7,900 migrants to Washington since April, later sending 2,200 to New York and 300 to Chicago. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has transported more than 1,800 migrants to Washington since May. Passengers must sign waivers stating that free travel is voluntary.
DeSantis appears to be taking the strategy to a new level by using planes and choosing Martha’s Vineyard, whose port towns that are home to around 15,000 people are far less prepared than New York or Washington for large influxes of migrants.
Texas and Florida infuriated destination city officials by failing to provide passenger lists, estimated arrival times and other information that would aid in preparation. By contrast, Arizona has coordinated with officials from other cities.
President Joe Biden faces the same challenges as his predecessor, former President Donald Trump: a dysfunctional asylum system in the United States and economic and social conditions that are driving people from dozens of countries to flee.
US authorities arrested migrants from Mexico about 2 million times from October to July, up almost 50% compared to the same period a year earlier. Many are released to the United States to continue their immigration cases because US authorities have struggled to deport them to their country under a pandemic-era rule that denies them the ability to seek asylum.
Some Republicans celebrated the latest delivery of migrants from border states.
“Welcome to a state on the southern border of Massachusetts,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern tweeted.
Stephen Miller, Trump’s chief immigration policy architect, said bringing “a few million” migrants to Martha’s Vineyard should transform the island of about 15,000 people into “a modern Eden”.
Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist said DeSantis treated migrants inhumanely. “It’s amazing to me what he’s willing to do for simple political gain,” Crist said.
Talia Inlender, deputy director of UCLA’s Center for Immigration Law and Policy, said flights to Martha’s Vineyard appear to violate Florida law that they are limited to “unauthorized aliens.”
“These people are not allowed,” she said. “They don’t fly under the radar in any way.”
(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)