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DeSantis says Florida is not a 'sanctuary state' in defending migrant flights to Martha's Vineyard

The governor defended his decision against what he called Biden's open border policy.

NICEVILLE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis denounced the Biden administration for refusing "to lift a finger" in securing the U.S. border with Mexico in defending his decision to fly planes carrying migrants on Wednesday to Martha's Vineyard.

Declaring that Florida is not a sanctuary state, DeSantis said during a news conference Thursday morning that leaders have worked on "innovative ways" to shield the state from President Joe Biden's failed border policies.

One was using a portion of the state's latest budget that included $12 million to establish a program within the Department of Transportation to "facilitate the transport" of undocumented persons out of Florida. 

"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, 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," said DeSantis, responding to a reporter's question.

The governor's communication director, Taryn Fenske, in a statement said, "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."

NPR reports a plane originated in San Antonio, made a stop in Florida and another stop in South Carolina before flying to Martha's Vineyard. Migrants interviewed by the outlet said they didn't spend time in Florida. 

Many migrants who cross the border illegally from Mexico are temporarily shielded from deportation after being freed by U.S. authorities to pursue asylum in immigration court — as allowed under U.S law and international treaty — or released on humanitarian parole, according to The Associated Press.

The outlet reported Martha's Vineyard called itself a "sanctuary destination" that welcomes migrants — a position it took early in former President Donald Trump's administration.

DeSantis' decision, like that of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott busing migrants to Washington, D.C., and other cities, further intensifies a tactic to criticize the Biden administration over immigration.

"One of the reasons why we want to transport because we, obviously, it's expensive if people are coming here. It taxes social services and all these other things. And so if we can do in a sanctuary, the chance that they come to Florida goes down dramatically," DeSantis said. "But it is also the case that, you know, every community in America should be sharing in the burdens. It shouldn't all fall on a handful of red states."

Former U.S. Rep. and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democratic candidate challenging DeSantis for governor, called the Republican's decision to move migrants "vile and disgusting."

"When you are this inhumane in how you treat human beings, you're not qualified to be governor of anything. It's amazing to me what he's willing to do for sheer political gain and to use people in this horrific way," Crist said.

The migrants arriving at Martha's Vineyard, where former President Barack Obama has a home, face a shortage of affordable housing while at the end of the summer season when seasonal work has ended, according to the New York Times.

One who said he was from Venezuela told the outlet the islanders were generous, giving him a pair of shoes.

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