Immigration war intensifies in the US: Florida flies dozens of Venezuelans to Martha’s Vineyard

Governor Ron De Santis joins Republicans from Texas and Arizona, sending migrants to liberal bastions to protest President Biden’s ‘open border policies’

A Venezuelan woman and her son, part of the contingent of immigrants sent by Florida to Martha's Vineyard.
A Venezuelan woman and her son, part of the contingent of immigrants sent by Florida to Martha's Vineyard.RAY EWING (AP)

The crisis caused by the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona, who have been sending undocumented migrants by bus from the US-Mexico border to liberal cities in the northeast such as Washington, New York or Chicago, has just escalated. On Wednesday, two planes filled with around 50 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, landed in the wealthy island resort of Martha’s Vineyard, off the southern coast of Massachusetts. The flights were paid for by the Governor of Florida, the Republican Ron DeSantis. According to the migrants’ testimonies, when they boarded the planes in San Antonio (Texas), they were made to believe that they were flying to Boston.

A video provided by the governor’s office to Fox News later confirmed that DeSantis had fulfilled his threat and joined his counterparts in Texas and Arizona in the effort to add pressure on Democratic authorities and the White House. DeSantis used funds approved by the Florida Legislature earlier this year, despite the fact that the flights departed from outside his state. The planes did make a stopover in Florida, but none of the travelers set foot in the state at any time.

DeSantis’ communications director later issued a statement: “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.”

The office of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker confirmed that the migrants will be given shelter. “Local authorities are providing short-term shelter services, and our administration will continue to support those efforts,” said its press secretary, Terry MacCormack. The immigrants, who made stops in Florida and South Carolina, spent the night in an Episcopalian church on Martha’s Vineyard. The mayor of the town of West Tibury assured the newspaper Martha’s Vineyard Times that they fear more planes will arrive in the coming days.

“We have the governor of Florida hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on a plane,” said Democratic Senator Dylan Fernandes, a state representative for Martha’s Vineyard, a wealthy summer resort famous for having served as an exclusive vacation spot for three US presidents: Kennedy, Clinton and Obama. “Sending women and children to a place without telling them where they are being sent and without alerting local authorities of their arrival is incredibly inhumane and depraved.”

Fernandes’ complaint echoes those of other Democratic representatives such as the mayors of New York (Eric Adams), Chicago (Lori Lightfoot) and Washington (Muriel Bowser), three cities where Texas Governor Greg Abbot has been sending migrants by bus since April.

He was later joined by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Both are up for re-election in the midterm elections on November 8, and their programs include getting tough on immigration, as well as preserving Title 42, an obscure regulation from 1893 used by the former Trump administration during the Covid pandemic to send back illegal border crossers for health reasons. Biden tried to end Title 42 in May, but a Louisiana judge blocked it, despite the fact that the pandemic is beginning to be more of a bad memory than a health emergency.

The migrants began to arrive in New York in August, and there are now thousands of them living in precarious conditions, while local assistance services warn that there are not enough resources to go around. In late July, Washington Mayor Bowser asked for help from the National Guard, but the White House did not approve their mobilization.

Last week, Bowser, backed by the District of Columbia’s recent declaration of a state of emergency, announced the creation of a special office to manage the crisis. According to the mayor’s calculations, around 9,400 people have arrived in the area, although many do not stay in Washington, instead continuing their journey to other places where relatives await them. The Governor of Illinois, the Democrat J. B. Pritzker, this week signed a disaster declaration and mobilized resources to deal with the arrival of immigrants in Chicago, bused there by authorities in Texas.

On Thursday, according to Fox News and The Washington Examiner, two buses arrived from Eagle Pass, Texas and came to a halt at a subway stop near the official residence of Vice-President Kamala Harris, northwest of Washington, DC. The buses carried between 75 and 100 immigrants. Among the few powers that Harris has assumed in the year and a half since she was sworn in, one of the main ones is her commitment to the management of immigration policies. Sending those immigrants to her doorstep is a way of punishing Harris for her statements in an NBC interview on Sunday, when she said that the border is “secure.”

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