Questions remain in Florida-sponsored migrant flight to Martha’s Vineyard

Flights were paid for using money in Florida budget

Undocumented immigrants were flown to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts in a move that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said was a response to President Joe Biden's illegal immigration policies.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Roughly 50 migrants are now in Massachusetts after they arrived on flights Wednesday organized by Florida’s governor.

Gov. Ron Desantis’ office took responsibility Thursday for relocating them to Martha’s Vineyard. The move has led to more questions and swift reactions from both sides.

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DeSantis said it was his response to President Joe Biden’s handling of illegal immigration while speaking at an event in Niceville, Florida, on Thursday.

“Our message to them is that we are not a sanctuary state, and it’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction, and yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures,” DeSantis said.

The governor’s office shared a statement confirming the flights were paid for by a $12 million program approved in the current Florida budget HB 5001, part of a “relocation program” to transport immigrants to sanctuary destinations.

According to voting records, HB 5001 received bipartisan support, passing with 105 votes in the Florida House of Representatives and 33 votes in the Florida Senate.

News 6 confirmed with aviation officials at Martha’s Vineyard that the planes took off from Texas and stopped in Crestview, Florida. They spent about 40 minutes there before one aircraft went to Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the other to Charlotte, North Carolina, before both arrived in Massachusetts.

Those working to help the families who arrived said they were fed and given a place to stay the night.

“Martha’s Vineyard Community Services had 50 people sort of literally walk up to their front door,” said Barbara Rush, a nurse at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Some of those people are believed to have traveled from Venezuela, according to several reports. Venezuelan leaders in Florida say they are outraged. A group spoke in Doral, Florida, Thursday morning.

“We demand him to stop using our pain, our suffering and our desperation for his political gains,” said Adelys Ferro, executive director of the Venezuelan American Caucus.

NPR reported some of the migrants they interviewed in Martha’s Vineyard said they crossed the border in Texas and were only in Florida during that layover we showed you.

News 6 asked the state for clarity considering the language in the budget. It states the money can be used to transport undocumented immigrants from this state.

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About the Author:

Catherine, born and raised in Central Florida, joined News 6 in April 2022.