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Did DeSantis use taxpayer funds to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard?

Imagine the message this sends: If you reach the United States, Ron DeSantis might give you a free flight to a lovely coastal town in New England.


Some Republican governors, including Texas’ Greg Abbott and Arizona’s Doug Ducey, have spent much of the year busing migrants to northern cities. By most measures, the trips have been clumsy political stunts, using desperate people as props.

This week, it appears Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took the campaign in an uglier direction. The Associated Press reported overnight:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday flew two planes of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, escalating a tactic by Republican governors to draw attention to what they consider to be the Biden administration’s failed border policies. Flights to the upscale island enclave in Massachusetts were part of an effort to “transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,” said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director.

At this point, there are some relevant questions about details that remain murky. The Florida Republican was quick to claim responsibility for shipping the migrants to the small Massachusetts town, but The New York Times reported that the migrants themselves said they had started the day in San Antonio, Texas.

It’s also unclear what the migrants were promised. One told The Vineyard Gazette that they were assured there’d be “work and housing“ when they arrived, raising concerns about who may have lied to them, why, and whether someone perpetrated a fraud as part of this scheme.

As for the financing, a report from a local ABC affiliate added, “It was not immediately clear who paid for the private charter flights to the island; however, the statement from the governor’s spokesperson said the Florida Legislature appropriated $12 million to implement a program to facilitate the transport of undocumented immigrants from the state.”

In other words, it would appear DeSantis and his team may have used taxpayer money to fling desperate migrant families at Martha’s Vineyard as part of an apparent election-season stunt.

The Republican governor’s spokesperson said in a statement, “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 through their designation as ‘sanctuary states’ and support for the Biden administration’s open border policies.”

Obviously, rhetoric about “open border policies” is tiresome drivel, designed to treat Americans like fools, but more notable was DeSantis’ office complaining about “incentivizing illegal immigration.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this little Martha’s Vineyard stunt won’t exactly discourage migrants. Imagine the message this sends to those weighing whether to seek a better life: If you reach the United States, Ron DeSantis might give you a free flight to a lovely coastal town in New England.

As for local conditions, officials didn’t know that dozens of migrants, including young children, would simply be dropped off in their community. A state senator told the Times that officials and volunteers from the island’s six towns “really moved heaven and earth to essentially set up the response that we would do in the event of a hurricane.”