Venezuelan-American groups decry Florida Gov. DeSantis’ decision to send migrants to Massachusetts

DeSantis: ‘We are not a sanctuary state’

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.

DORAL, Fla. – Leaders in South Florida’s Venezuelan-American community gathered in Doral Thursday to denounce Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to send two planes filled with undocumented immigrants to Massachusetts, according to News 6 partner WPLG.

The planes, sent to Martha’s Vineyard, contained at least 50 migrants from Venezuela, including men, women and children. DeSantis said he chose Massachusetts because it is a “sanctuary state.”

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The choice of Doral by the Venezuelan-American groups was no accident: the city is home to a large Venezuelan-American population.

“This is frankly incomprehensible,” Maria Corina Vegas, with the American Business Immigration Coalition, said. “As a Venezuelan-American, I don’t understand it.”

A statement from DeSantis’ Communications Director Taryn Fenske confirmed that two planes containing immigrants who came into the United States illegally landed in Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday.

The statement began:

“I can confirm the two planes with illegal immigrants that arrived in Martha’s Vineyard today were part of the state’s relocation program to transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations. 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.”

Martha’s Vineyard has styled itself as a “sanctuary destination” that welcomes migrants — a position it took early in former President Donald Trump’s administration.

State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard, tweeted: “Our island jumped into action putting together 50 beds, giving everyone a good meal, providing a play area for the children, making sure people have the healthcare and support they need. We are a community that comes together to support immigrants.”

Vegas accused DeSantis of “pandering” by criticizing the dictatorial regime of Nicolas Maduro but then turning away those fleeing Venezuela.

“(I’m) really surprised considering, especially the governor, always pandering to communities like mine traumatized by political persecution and violence, and he’s taking the shameless action,” she said.

DeSantis, speaking at an event in the Florida Panhandle, reiterated his reasoning for sending the migrants away.

“If you have folks that are inclined to think Florida is a good place, our message to them is: we are not a sanctuary state,” he said. “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.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began busing thousands of migrants to Washington in April and recently added New York and Chicago as destinations. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has been busing migrants to Washington since May. Passengers must sign waivers that the free trips are voluntary.

DeSantis, who is mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, appears to be taking the strategy to a new level by using planes and choosing Martha’s Vineyard, whose harbor towns that are home to about 15,000 people are far less prepared than New York or Washington for large influxes of migrants.

The move is likely to delight DeSantis’ supporters who deride Democrat-led, immigrant-friendly “sanctuary” cities.

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About the Authors:

Annaliese Garcia joined Local 10 News in January 2020. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied broadcast journalism. She began her career at Univision. Before arriving at Local 10, she was with NBC2 (WBBH-TV) covering Southwest Florida. She's glad to be back in Miami!

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.