Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) offered a bit more insight Tuesday into why he is spending hundreds of thousands in state taxpayer funds chartering private flights to transport migrants to states that lie hundreds of miles away.
Lately the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona have been deploying a strategy to raise awareness of the surge in people crossing the southern U.S. border by busing them to cities run by their political rivals. Last week, DeSantis joined in, claiming credit for two flights from San Antonio to the tony Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Among the many legal and ethical questions DeSantis raised with his stunt was a simple logistical one: Why didn’t he start with migrants in his own state?
“The problem is, we’re not seeing mass movements of them into Florida, so you end up with a car with maybe two,” DeSantis told reporters at a news conference.
“It’s just coming in onesie, twosies,” he said.
DeSantis is apparently seeking to discourage migrants from thinking they can settle in his state, saying his administration has “done a lot of intelligence” on the matter and found that 30% to 40% of people attempting to cross the southern U.S. border want to end up in Florida.
“And so, we have to go and figure out, OK, who are those people likely to be? And if you can do it at the source and divert to sanctuary jurisdictions, the chance they end up in Florida is much less,” DeSantis said.
Last Wednesday, about 50 migrants ― most of them from Venezuela ― were left to fend for themselves upon arrival on Martha’s Vineyard, as no one in DeSantis’ camp had let local authorities know about the plan.
Authorities in Delaware spent much of Tuesday preparing for the possibility that DeSantis would send another planeload of migrants there. Flight tracking websites indicated that the planes that took off from San Antonio last week were plotting a similar course to a small airport near President Joe Biden’s house, but the flights did not take off as scheduled.
The migrants brought to Martha’s Vineyard filed a class action lawsuit against DeSantis and his administration on Tuesday, following reports that they had been purposefully mislead about the circumstances of their travel.
While the Florida governor has been criticized widely for treating migrants inhumanely, he has garnered plenty of support in his own party.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced approval for the idea of transporting migrants to Northern cities.
“I personally thought it was a good idea,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday, saying: “If you added up all of the illegals that’ve been taken to Chicago or Washington or Martha’s Vineyard, it would be fewer than people down in Texas have to deal with on a daily basis.”
The surge in migration along the Mexico border has come after years of political and economic instability in countries across Central and South America. People crossing into southern border states either wish to apply for asylum protections or to stay in the country illegally to live and work in relative safety.