“It is an incredibly inhumane and depraved thing to do.”

Immigration DeSantis Flights

A woman belonging to a group of immigrants who had just arrived holds a child as they are fed Wednesday outside St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, in Edgartown, Mass., on Martha’s Vineyard. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday flew two planes of immigrants to the island unannounced. Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette via AP

Dylan Fernandes, a Democratic state representative for Martha’s Vineyard, did not mince words Wednesday in response to the decision by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to fly two planes carrying immigrant families to the Massachusetts island unannounced.

“We have the governor of Florida … hatching a secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane,” Fernandes said. “Ship them women and children to a place they weren’t told they were going and never alerted local officials and people on the ground here that they were coming.”

According to reports, somebody approached the migrants, most of them Venezuelan, outside a shelter in San Antonio, Texas, and promised them they would be flown to Boston, via Florida, to receive work papers and housing. “When you have no money and someone offers help, well, it means a lot” was the assessment that a 30-year-old migrant named Andres Duarte gave to reporters.

Help, of course, wasn’t a remote consideration of those coordinating the travel. By Thursday morning, DeSantis was reported as having “claimed credit” for the move, as if he were some kind of criminal mastermind. Suggestions that this is part of any kind of coordinated “relocation program,” no matter how handsomely resourced it is (his state has set aside a budget of $12 million), are difficult to take seriously.

“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,” read a statement from his office.


Any care extended by DeSantis and his allies, which culminated in deceiving migrant families into boarding the planes and allowing them to go upward of 10 hours without food or water, won’t be hard to improve on.

This abhorrent instance is the latest in a series of similar moves designed to needle Democrats and reach a national audience. Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent two busloads of migrants to a residential part of Washington, D.C., near the home of Vice President Kamala Harris. “We’re sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden administration to do its job and secure the border,” Abbott tweeted.

Both Florida and Texas are resorting to the exploitation of vulnerable people to score a political point. In DeSantis’ case, it’s a publicity stunt that has been carefully engineered to generate the kind of notoriety likely to bolster a presidential bid.

The Republican governors’ game playing should be a source of deep shame for everybody involved. It exposes the depth of the division on the U.S.-Mexico border and behooves the Biden administration to intervene and support the “sanctuary cities” targeted – and the defenseless people deposited in these places after being coerced and misled.

Nothing is stopping Maine from joining this arbitrary, tactical shortlist. Explaining his philosophy, Abbott has previously used the catch-all “liberal leaders up in the Northeast.”

In the absence of any federal support, D.C. last week “freed up” $10 million as part of a public emergency declaration by the mayor (a request for help from the National Guard was rebuffed). The funds will be used to establish a new Office of Migrant Services to provide support to about 10,000 people who have been bused to the nation’s capital.

Martha’s Vineyard residents told reporters that the newly arrived migrants used translation apps to say thanks and communicate with the locals helping them out. No amount of kindness and compassion should take our minds off the sneering, unedifying spectacle that brought them there in the first place.

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