On his 44th birthday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took credit for chartering two flights paid for with state money to fly immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard — a path that took the small group from Texas to the Massachusetts coast.
The immigrants — around 50 of them mainly from Venezuela who were not living in Florida — say they were promised jobs, housing and a future in the U.S. after fleeing one of the poorest countries in Latin America.
Some people have decried DeSantis’ actions as a political stunt while others have praised him for protecting the state. The Republican governor, a father of three whose ancestors migrated from Italy, is running for a second term in November and is a presidential contender.
Here’s what we know:
What has DeSantis said before on immigration?
DeSantis had previously vowed to bus undocumented immigrants to Biden’s home state of Delaware and has criticized the president for lack of action on border immigration.
How much has Florida spent on this effort?
Earlier this year the Florida Legislature passed a new program to relocate undocumented immigrants. Funding for the $12 million effort began in July. Under the guidelines, the state can contract with private transportation companies to bus people from Florida to other parts of the country.
DeSantis’ administration last week paid an aviation company $615,000 as part of the new program. It paid Vertol Systems Company, Inc., on Sept. 8, according to state budget records. The payment, listed as “Relocation program of unauthorized aliens,” appears to have come from the state’s general revenue fund.
Where did the immigrants come from?
Two flights started in San Antonio, Texas, according to 7News BostonWHDH.
The immigrants touched down in Martha’s Vineyard in two separate flights, one at 3:12 p.m. and another at 3:30, stopping in Crestview, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, according to the flight tracking company, FlightAware.
What does DeSantis say?
After the governor took credit for sending the migrants to the summer island getaway, he said he chose Martha’s Vineyard because so-called “sanctuary cities” can take responsibility for undocumented immigrants.
“One of the reasons why we want to transfer (people is) because, obviously it’s expensive if people are coming here, you got to pay taxes, social services, and all these other things,” DeSantis said at a Thursday news conference, according to media reports.
If people are sent elsewhere, he said, “then the chance that they come to Florida goes down dramatically.”
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What do the immigrants say?
The migrants said they had agreed to fly to Massachusetts after they were promised jobs and help but didn’t realize they were bound for Martha’s Vineyard, some told the Miami Herald. No one on the island knew they were coming and, according to their attorneys, they’d been given falsified U.S. addresses by immigration officials, according to the Herald.
“They were told there was a surprise present for them, and that there would be jobs and housing awaiting for them when they arrived,” Rachel Self, a Boston immigration attorney who was assisting with the migrants’ cases, told the Herald. “This was obviously a sadistic lie.”
The group on Friday was being taken to a military base in Massachusetts.