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What You Need to Know About DeSantis and Abbott’s Migrant Transport

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott transported migrants out of Texas this week.
  • The moves were designed to protest Biden’s border policies and force Democratic-led cities to deal with the issue.
  • Democrats say Republicans are using inhumane political stunts.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decisions this week to send migrants to Martha’s Vineyard and Vice President Kamala Harris’ home in Washington, DC, represent an escalation in Republicans’ war against the Biden administration’s border policies that has outraged Democrats and immigrants’ rights groups.

Both governors say President Joe Biden’s policies are failing to stem unauthorized migration and that Democratic-led cities should deal with them. Arizona has sent buses to Washington, DC, as well.

The White House and Democrats are furious, calling the move a political stunt and inhumane.

Here’s what you need to know:

They sent them where?

DeSantis, a Republican who is running for re-election and is considered a potential 2024 presidential contender, chartered two planes to transport migrants that weren’t from his state

About 50 undocumented immigrants from Venezuela and Colombia were picked up in San Antonio, Texas, and dropped off on the Massachusetts island as part of Florida’s “relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”

The migrants thought they were being sent to Boston for expedited work permits, according to NPR. “I thought I was coming to Boston,” Ardenis Nazareth told the New York Times. “I ended up on this little island.”

Abbott sent migrants from Texas to Harris’ doorstep via bus. “Very difficult. Mexico, a lot of corruption to get to the border. But thank God we were able to cross,” a migrant who fled Venezuela told NBC via an interpreter.

Is that legal?

DeSantis used state funds for the charter flights on Wednesday after the Florida legislature allocated $12 million for transporting migrants. POLITICO noted that the budget item “suggested it was to pay to transport them out of Florida, not other states.”

One immigration lawyer told The Orlando Sentinel that the state can’t enforce federal laws.

Some attorneys on Twitter questioned the legality because federal law bans the transport of undocumented immigrants across state lines. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a frequent DeSantis critic, and DeSantis’ Democratic opponent in the governor’s race, Charlie Crist, said the Department of Justice should get involved.

What did Biden say?

“Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props,” Biden said on Wednesday at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala. “What they’re doing is simply wrong. It’s un-American. It’s reckless.

“And we have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We’re working to make sure it’s safe and orderly and humane,” he continued. “Republican officials should not interfere with that process by waging … these political stunts.” 

Why Kamala Harris’ home?

Biden tapped Harris to lead the White House effort to tackle challenges at the border last year. Abbott sent buses with 100 migrants to be dropped off near her US Naval Observatory home on Thursday. 

“She’s the border czar, and we felt that if she won’t come down to see the border, if President [Joe] Biden will not come down and see the border, we will make sure they see it firsthand. … And listen, there’s more where that came from,” he told Lubbock radio station KFYO, according to The Texas Tribune.

Harris has faced criticism for saying Sunday, on “Meet the Press,” that the border is “secure.”

“The border is secure, but we also have a broken immigration system, in particular, over the last four years before we came in, and it needs to be fixed.”

This year, Texas has bused thousands of migrants to Washington, DC, and New York City, and about 300 to Chicago, according to The Houston Chronicle.

Why Martha’s Vineyard?

The tony island south of Cape Cod is known as a haven for wealthy progressives and has served as a vacation spot for former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

“The minute even a small fraction of what those border towns deal with every day is brought to their front door they all of a sudden go berserk,” DeSantis said. “It just shows you their virtue signaling is a fraud.”

DeSantis had suggested in November that he could send migrants to Biden’s home state of Delaware.

Migrants received care and shelter at a local church, but a homeless shelter coordinator said the island didn’t have long-term services or housing for them.

What’s next?

The migrants who arrived near the Naval Observatory with their belongings in clear plastic bags moved to a nearby church, according to the Associated Press.

On Friday, the migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard were being moved to Joint Base Cape Cod where they will receive “shelter and humanitarian support,” according to a statement released by the governor’s office.

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