By Isabel Pulgarin
Governor Ron DeSantis is being investigated by the U.S. Treasury Department for initiating the transport of about 50 Venezuelan migrants out of the state of Texas and into the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard – all in the name of protecting Florida from the “reckless border policies” of President Joe Biden.
It all started six months ago. On April 13, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent 24 Colombian, Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers from the Texas-Mexico border to Washington, D.C. as a layover to their final destinations where their families and friends live. This was declared a response to President Joe Biden’s announcement on the May 23 reversal of the two-year pandemic exception to quickly expel migrants and asylum-seekers at the border called Title 42.
“One thing that’s perfectly clear, and that is the Biden Administration and a lot of leaders in Congress have no idea about the chaos they have caused by their open border policies. And they refuse to come down and see firsthand and talk to the people who are really most adversely affected. And if they’re not going to come to the border, I’m going to take the border to them in Washington, D.C.,” said Governor Abbott in a press conference on the day of their arrival on April 13.
Groups like the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington scrambled to meet migrants with food, clothes, and transportation tickets as they lacked the valid documents in order to reserve seats. Sister Wagner said she talked with some Venezuelan asylum-seekers and found they were offered free rides to the nation’s capital.
“While it was voluntary, they felt it was the only way to get out of Texas. I don’t know how much choice they were given,” said Sister Wagner to CBS News. “They’re arriving very tired and hungry… so they’re looking at another 40-hour bus ride, having arrived with the clothes on their back and no change of clothing.”
That same day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said these migrants who were not transferred to long-term detention centers had been previously processed and released as asylum-seekers awaiting their court hearings and were permitted to travel.
"These are all migrants who have been processed by [Customs and Border Protection] and are free to travel, so it's nice the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination as they await the outcome of their immigration proceedings, and they're all in immigration proceedings," the then White House press secretary Jen Psaki said following the DHS statement.
Now that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis followed in Governor Abbott’s example and have begun busing their migrants out of state, the White House has changed its tune about the bussing program.
Additionally, people like Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Maryland-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, have called the bussing program “a shameless publicity stunt” using the migrants as “political pawns.”
Texas has still been orchestrating more surprise drop-offs in D.C., New York, and Chicago. Texas has taken credit for more than 8,000 migrants in D.C. since April and more than 2,500 in New York since August 5. It’s reported in Chicago that they have received more than a thousand from Texas.
The cities of Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. have declared emergencies and activations of the National Guard over the continuous influx of migrants.
Many transported migrants are ending up in homeless shelters and living on the streets. New York City Major Eric Adams said he has received 4,000 asylum-seekers who fueled a 10 percent spike in homelessness on his city.
Migrants continue to arrive in places where they shouldn’t like on Sept. 15 by bus in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory and in Martha’s Vineyard by planes funded by Governor DeSantis. As a small island off the coast of Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard does not offer the same resources for asylum-seekers like New York, Chicago, or Washington.
San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller believes that tactics like these will “promote human trafficking.”
“It took me by surprise,” said Ricardo Bracho Munoz, a senior studying communications and public relations. “I understand that it could be seen like that but illegal immigrants should not be in the U.S. in the first place. It’s unfair to all the people who sacrifice everything to come here legally and, if you ignore the laws of a nation, it’s only fair that the nation will ignore your laws or human rights.”
Mass. State Representative Dylan Fernandez of Martha’s Vineyard said that migrants were lured on the flights because they were “told they would be given housing and jobs” and, according to legal experts, it is not illegal. It is only illegal to transport migrants if a person is helping an immigrant remain undetected by authorities or if the immigrant is forcibly or involuntarily taken.
Governor DeSantis took credit for the two planes that landed in Martha’s Vineyard Sept. 14 and is currently being investigated by the U.S. Treasury Department on whether he funded the flights from San Antonio with interest earnings from federal COVID-19 loans intended for public relief.
This may pose a problem for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is currently up for re-election. According to the Miami Herald, his administration paid a Destin-based aviation company, Vertol Systems Company, more than $1.56 million to transport migrants who never set foot in Florida.
The Miami Herald also noted that the state program DeSantis said he used to authorize the flights should only apply to Florida state issues not those of Texas. In the state budget, he specified that it would be used in his state.
The White House, Democrats, and immigrant-rights organizations continue to condemn the actions made by these three Republican Governors as “dehumanizing” and a “degrading disrespect” to all immigrants.