DeSantis defends migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard, critics call it political theater

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis is facing backlash from his administration’s decision to fly dozens of migrants to Massachusetts.


They landed on Martha’s VIneyard Wednesday afternoon, an island near Cape Cod. On board were 50 Venezuelan migrants, including four children.

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The plane, and the migrants on board, started their journey earlier in the day in San Antonio Texas. However, the flight was paid for by the state of Florida.

“We take what is happening at the southern border very seriously, unlike some,” Desantis said in a statement Thursday while defending his actions during a press conference in Niceville. “Florida is not a sanctuary state.”

Meanwhile, critics like Charlie Crist- DeSantis’ opponent in the November Governor’s race- described the move as nothing more than political theater with desperate people used as props.

“It is so cold and so callous and so inhumane,” Crist said. “It is unconscionable.”

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Senate Bill 1808, passed earlier this year, set aside $12 million dollars for immigration enforcement.

University of Central Florida political science professor Dr. Aubrey Jewett notes that the law doesn’t require that the targeted immigrants be in Florida.

“It seems that these Venezuelan refugees were in Texas, in fact, and that Florida money was used to fly Venezuelan refugees from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard,” Jewett said.

Venezuelan migrants are currently covered by what’s known as “Temporary Protected Status,” a protection first put in place by former President Donald Trump in 2021, then renewed this year by President Joe Biden. The TPS status protects Venezuelan exiles from deportation due to the conditions in their home country.

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It’s unclear whether the organizer of the flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard knew the passengers were Venezuelan migrants.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried has called on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the matter.

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