Republican governors are escalating their tactic of sending illegal immigrants to Democratic strongholds, including a wealthy summer enclave in Massachusetts and the home of Vice President Kamala Harris, to force Democratic leaders of illegal-friendly “sanctuary” cities to share the burden of Biden’s open border policy.
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The governors of Texas and Arizona have sent thousands of illegal immigrants on buses to New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., in recent months. But the latest surprise moves — which included two flights to Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday paid for by Florida — reached a new level of political theater that critics derided as inhumane.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, D-F.L., said that “their virtue-signaling is a fraud.”
“We take what is happening at the southern border very seriously, unlike some, and unlike the President of the United States, who has refused to lift a finger to secure that border,” DeSantis said. “You’ve had millions and millions of people pouring across illegally. A record amount of fentanyl coming into our country. It is absolutely killing Americans in record numbers; of course you have criminal aliens.”
“If you have folks that are inclined to think Florida’s a good place, our message to them is: We are not a sanctuary state, and it’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction,” he said. “And yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures.”
Martha’s Vineyard, the wealthy island resort that is the home of former President Barack Obama, was sent a plane with just a few dozen illegal immigrants. The city declared a humanitarian crisis in the city because it overwhelmed its resources.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-T.X., pointed out that 15,000 illegal immigrants arrived in the Texas city of Del Rio — with a population of approximately 30,000 — in just one day.
Folks on Martha’s Vineyard are describing the burdens from 50 illegal immigrants.
To put that in perspective, the small town of Del Rio, TX has about 30,000 residents.
I was there when 15,000 Haitian illegal immigrants were crossing in to Del Rio IN A SINGLE DAY.
15,000 > 50 https://t.co/gnlvxFBFTS
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) September 15, 2022
DeSantis said the flights to Martha’s Vineyard were part of an effort to “transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.” The Florida Legislature has earmarked $12 million to transport “unauthorized aliens” out of state.
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Massachusetts state Sen. Julian Cyr told The Vineyard Gazette that one plane originated in San Antonio, and questioned whether migrants ever set foot in Florida. Flight tracking data shows a flight originated in San Antonio, stopped in Crestview, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, before landing in Martha’s Vineyard.
The two buses of illegal immigrants from Texas that arrived early Thursday outside Harris’ residence at the United States Naval Observatory carried more than 100 migrants from Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela.
“The Biden-Harris administration continues ignoring and denying the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for almost two years,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has poured billions of state funding into trying to secure Texas’ border.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has publicly feuded with DeSantis and Abbot over their conservative policies, on Thursday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether transporting illegal immigrants across state lines as “political props” broke the law.
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Without mentioning DeSantis or Abbot by name, Newsom suggested the federal government could bring charges of kidnapping and “civil rights conspiracy” because the migrants were targeted because of their national origin.
Many illegals don’t declare asylum and simply sneak across the border. Those illegal immigrants that surrender themselves after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, spend time in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility until they are generally released into the U.S. to wait out their cases. Many simply disappear and never show up at their court cases.
Republicans say Biden’s policies encourage these migrants to vanish into the U.S.; Democrats argue the Trump-era policy of forcing thousands of illegals to wait out their asylum cases in Mexico was inhumane.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that federal officials were not told in advance by the Republican governors who sent the illegal immigrants to Massachusetts and Washington.
Abbott has bused 7,900 migrants to Washington since April, later sending 2,200 to New York and 300 to Chicago. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has bused more than 1,800 migrants to Washington since May. Passengers must sign waivers that the free trips are voluntary.
DeSantis appears to be taking the strategy to a new level by using planes and choosing Martha’s Vineyard, a popular vacation spot for the rich and powerful.
Texas and Florida have infuriated Democratic officials in destination cities by failing to provide passenger rosters, estimated times of arrival, and other information that would make it easier to prepare. In contrast, Arizona has coordinated with officials in other cities.
President Joe Biden is facing the same challenges that dogged many of his predecessors, including former President Donald Trump: a completely dysfunctional asylum system in the United States.
Numbers show the situation has grown much worse under Biden. U.S. authorities caught illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico about 2 million times from October through July, up nearly 50% from the same period a year earlier. Many are released in the United States to pursue their immigration cases because U.S. authorities have struggled to expel them to their countries under a pandemic-era rule that denies them a chance to seek asylum.
Some Republicans celebrated the latest delivery of migrants from border states.
“Welcome to being a state on the Southern border, Massachusetts,” tweeted DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern.
Stephen Miller, a chief architect of Trump’s immigration policies, said bringing “a few million” migrants to Martha’s Vineyard should transform the island of about 15,000 people into “a modern Eden.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article