Democrats’ blood boils over Abbott and DeSantis’s migrant busing

Democrats are accusing Republican governors of cruelly using migrants as political pawns after they chartered buses and flights to send them to places like New York City and Martha’s Vineyard.  

Migrants on two flights chartered by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) landed at Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday afternoon, and hours later, dozens of migrants sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) arrived on buses near the vice president’s residence in Washington, D.C.  

The governors, along with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), transported thousands of migrants in recent months, arguing the decision provides relief to border communities overwhelmed by President Biden’s immigration policies.  

But Democrats have responded to the moves with intense pushback, and have accused the governors of providing no notice to localities and misleading the migrants. 

“Why send these folks only to blue cities or blue states? Why isn’t Abbott sending refugees to Mississippi or Oklahoma or Idaho?” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) asked at a press conference on Wednesday.  

“This is about politics for him without regard to the fear and anguish and the challenges that it poses for these refugees, but here in Illinois we refuse to stoop to that man’s level,” Pritzker continued, signing a disaster proclamation that frees up state resources and activates 75 members of the Illinois National Guard to assist. 

Abbott’s office said on Friday that Texas bused more than 10,400 migrants since April, with more than 300 migrants arriving in Chicago. 

Pritzker said Abbott isn’t notifying Chicago or the state when they send migrants. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) said on CNN on Saturday that some of the migrants were taken to hospitals upon arrival.  

“They were put on the buses with delicate medical conditions that no one in Texas seemed to care anything about,” Lightfoot told the outlet. “That is simply not right, and it’s un-American.” 

Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze called Democrats complaining about the relocations “absolute hypocrites.”

“Instead of complaining about fulfilling their sanctuary city promises, these Democrat hypocrites should call on President Biden to do his job and secure the border — something the President continues failing to do,” Eze said.

The Republican governors argue the relocations ease the burden on border states after migrant apprehensions reached record levels earlier this year. 

“They all are concerned about a few dozen or a few hundred migrants coming to their town, and we get that many per hour in almost every community across the border,” Abbott said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Jesse Watters Primetime” on Tuesday. “So we’re dealing with this all the time, and I’m just helping out our local communities.” 

A majority of Texans — 52 percent — support Abbott’s busing of migrants, while 35 percent oppose the initiative, according to a poll by the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Politics Project

Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin said Arizona has sent 1,809 migrants to D.C., which he called the “source” of the problem with an “unwillingness” to assist. 

“We would encourage anyone who wants to get a better understanding of what’s happening to visit a small city on the border, like Yuma,” he said. 

Meanwhile, DeSantis on Wednesday sent migrants on two chartered flights to Martha’s Vineyard, an island in Massachusetts known for its popularity among the wealthy.  

“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 during a Thursday press conference

Massachusetts state Sen. Julian Cyr (D), who represents Martha’s Vineyard, called the flights “a fundamentally racist tactic” in an interview, drawing comparisons to the “Reverse Freedom Rides,” when southern segregationists lured African Americans to northern cities under false pretenses in 1962. 

The flights were also condemned by Massachusetts’s two Democratic senators, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, who both called the move “cruel.” 

“The fact that human beings are being trafficked for political benefits is abhorrent,” said Cyr. “It also raises some real questions as to whether or not any laws have been broken here.” 

Boston-based group Lawyers for Civil Rights said its attorneys traveled to Martha’s Vineyard to investigate whether state or federal human trafficking or kidnapping laws were violated. 

Cyr said a woman named “Perla” misled the migrants into boarding the flight by promising expedited work papers and housing. 

It’s unclear whether the migrants are undocumented or whether they are asylum seekers allowed into the country to wait out their immigration court cases, or a combination of both. 

Still, an individual’s immigration status is determined by Department of Homeland Security agencies – state governments have little to no say or legal authority to expedite cases. 

In a statement, DeSantis communications director Taryn Fenske called the migrants “illegal immigrants” but did not specify their immigration status. 

“Florida 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,” she said. 

Florida Democrats jumped on DeSantis’s move, particularly as it impacted Venezuelan nationals escaping the leftist authoritarian regime of President Nicolás Maduro. 

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, DeSantis’s Democratic opponent, lashed out directly at the Republican governor. 

“When you are this inhumane in how you treat human beings, you’re not qualified to be governor of anything,” said Crist. 

And state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D), who is challenging Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), said the move makes Florida Republicans’ claims of opposition to leftist authoritarianism in Latin America moot.  

“After last night’s news, Republicans can never again claim they stand with the victims of communism. To take advantage of people fleeing oppressive regimes and use them as political pawns to score cheap points with their Fox News audience and the extreme fringes of their party is cruel and inhumane,” said Taddeo in a statement. 

Vanessa Cárdenas, deputy director of progressive immigration group America’s Voice, called the relocations “caravans 2.0,” a reference to Republicans who seized on large groups of migrants that traveled together to the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years. 

“Their hope is to score points on Fox and distract from the Republican decline in the 2022 polls,” Cárdenas said in a statement.  

“Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott are competing to get MAGA-world kudos for ‘owning the libs,’” she continued. “In the process they are underscoring to the rest of the electorate how cruel, dehumanizing and transparently political their motivations are.”  

RJ Hauman, director of government relations and communications at Federation for American Immigration Reform — a restrictionist group that holds considerable sway over immigration hawks in the GOP — applauded the relocations. 

“It’s beyond hypocritical to see mayors get upset at governors for transporting illegal immigrants to their so-called sanctuaries because it’s ‘inhumane,’ when they’ve been silent on Biden policies that incentivize the same people to put their lives in the hands of actual human smugglers and cartels,” Hauman told The Hill. 

Updated at 5:30 p.m.

Tags asylum seekers Biden Doug Ducey Doug Ducey Florida migrants Greg Abbott Greg Abbott J.B. Pritzker Lori Lightfoot Migrant busing migrants Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis Texas Venezuela
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